Objective: To establish whether women with low-grade abnormalities detected during screening for cervical cancer prefer to be managed by cytological surveillance or by immediate colposcopy.
Methods: TOMBOLA (Trial of Management of Borderline and Other Low-grade Abnormal smears) is a randomized controlled trial comparing alternative management strategies following the screen-detection of low-grade cytological abnormalities. At exit, a sample of TOMBOLA women completed a questionnaire eliciting opinions on their management, contingent valuations (CV) of the management methods and preferences. Within-trial quality of life (EQ-5D) data collected for a sample of TOMBOLA women throughout their follow-up enabled the comparison of self-reported health at various time points, by management method.
Results: Once management had been initiated, self-reported health in the colposcopy arm rose relative to that in the surveillance arm, although the effect was short-term only. For the majority of women, the satisfaction ratings and the CV indicated approval of the management method to which they had been randomized. Of the minority manifesting a preference for the method which they had not experienced, relatively more would have preferred colposcopy than would have preferred surveillance.
Conclusions: The findings must be interpreted in the light of sample bias with respect to preferences, whereby enthusiasm for colposcopy was probably over-represented amongst trial participants. The study suggests that neither of the management methods is preferred unequivocally; rather, individual women have individual preferences, although many would be indifferent between methods.