Colposcopy non-attendance following an abnormal cervical cancer screening result: a prospective population-based cohort study

Linda A. Liang, Sylke R. Zeissig, Gunther Schauberger, Sophie Merzweiler, Kathrin Radde, Sabine Fischbeck, Hans Ikenberg, Maria Blettner, Stefanie J. Klug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: A considerable proportion of cervical cancer diagnoses in high-income countries are due to lack of timely follow-up of an abnormal screening result. We estimated colposcopy non-attendance, examined the potential factors associated and described non-attendance reasons in a population-based screening study. Methods: Data from the MARZY prospective cohort study were analysed. Co-test screen-positive women (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance or worse [ASC-US+] or high-risk human papillomavirus [hrHPV] positive) aged 30 to 65 years were referred to colposcopy within two screening rounds (3-year interval). Women were surveyed for sociodemographic, HPV-related and other data, and interviewed for non-attendance reasons. Logistic regression was used to examine potential associations with colposcopy attendance. Results: At baseline, 2,627 women were screened (screen-positive = 8.7%), and 2,093 again at follow-up (screen-positive = 5.1%; median 2.7 years later). All screen-positives were referred to colposcopy, however 28.9% did not attend despite active recall. Among co-test positives (ASC-US+ and hrHPV) and only hrHPV positives, 19.6% were non-attendees. Half of only ASC-US+ screenees attended colposcopy. Middle age (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.55, 95% CI 1.02, 4.96) and hrHPV positive result (aOR = 3.04, 95% CI 1.49, 7.22) were associated with attendance. Non-attendance was associated with having ≥ 3 children (aOR = 0.32, 95% CI 0.10, 0.86). Major reasons for non-attendance were lack of time, barriers such as travel time, need for childcare arrangements and the advice against colposcopy given by the gynaecologist who conducted screening. Conclusions: Follow-up rates of abnormal screening results needs improvement. A systematic recall system integrating enhanced communication and addressing follow-up barriers may improve screening effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number285
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Abnormal screening result
  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Colposcopy
  • HPV status
  • HPV testing
  • Non-attendance
  • Screening follow-up


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