Performance of colposcopy in five sub-Saharan African countries


Dr R Sankaranarayanan, Screening Group, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon Cedex 08, France. Email


Objective  The performance of colposcopy provided in a screening study in five African countries was evaluated.

Design  Cross-sectional study.

Setting  Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Niger.

Population  Women aged 25–59 years.

Methods  A total of 29 294 women participated in a cervical screening study in the five study sites, and newly trained local doctors performed colposcopy and directed biopsies as indicated. Using meta-analytical tools, four measures of colposcopy performance at different thresholds of colposcopic abnormalities were assessed. Sources of heterogeneity were also assessed.

Main outcome measures  Proportions of women receiving biopsies, adequate biopsies and women diagnosed with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).

Results  Among 28 553 women with satisfactory colposcopy, 3101 had a colposcopic diagnosis of probable low-grade or worse lesions and 1128 probable high-grade or worse lesions. Overall, the measures that reached the set standards were proportion of biopsy taken at colposcopy threshold of probable high-grade or worse lesions (95%, 95% CI 90–100%) and proportion of adequate biopsy samples. The set standards were not met for the proportions of women diagnosed with CIN at different colposcopic abnormality thresholds. Detection of CIN2 or worse lesions increased with increasing colposcopic abnormality.

Conclusions  The performance of colposcopy in some of the African sites studied was comparable to that previously observed in other studies. With appropriate training, monitoring, continuing practice and quality assurance, adequate standards of colposcopy can be attained in sub-Saharan Africa.