Introduction As the effectiveness of cytology-based screening programme for cervical cancer in mortality reduction has reached a plateau, various preventive strategies have been considered, including intensive Pap smear screening and the supplemental use of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA test or HPV vaccination. Cost and effectiveness of these various preventive strategies are therefore of great concern for health policy makers.
Objective We intended to assess whether the combination of HPV DNA testing or HPV vaccination with Pap smear screening programme or the sole annual Pap smear screening is more effective and cost-effective in prevention of cervical cancer than the existing triennial Pap smear screening programme.
Methods A Markov decision model was constructed to compare total costs and effectiveness between different preventive strategies (including annual Pap smear, HPV DNA testing or HPV vaccination together with Pap smear screening programme) as opposed to the triennial Pap smear screening alone (the comparator). Probabilistic cost-effectiveness (C-E) analysis was adopted to plot a series of simulated incremental C-E ratios scattered over C-E plane and also to yield the acceptability curve for different comparisons of strategies. The threshold of vaccine cost and the influence of attendance rate were also investigated.
Results Compared with triennial Pap smear screening programme, most of preventive strategies cost more but gain additional life years (quadrant I of C-E plane) except HPV DNA testing with Pap smear every 5 years dominated by triennial Pap smear screening programme. The most cost-effective strategy was annual Pap smear (incremental C-E ratio = $31 698), followed by HPV DNA testing with Pap smear every 3 years ($36 627), and vaccination programme with triennial Pap smear screening ($44 688) with the corresponding cost-effective probabilities by the acceptability curve being 65.52%, 52.08% and 35.84% given the threshold of $40 000 of willingness to pay. Vaccination combined with triennial Pap smear would be as cost-effective as annual Pap smear provided the cost of vaccination was lowered to $250 per full course of injection.
Conclusions Among various preventive strategies annual Pap smear screening programme is still the most cost-effective and additional HPV DNA testing is a cost-effective choice under a reasonable threshold of willingness to pay. Vaccination programme in combination with triennial screening would be cost-effective if vaccine cost can be greatly reduced in a large economic scale.