A prospective study of risk-based colposcopy demonstrates improved detection of cervical precancers

Nicolas Wentzensen, Joan Walker, Katie Smith, Michael A. Gold, Rosemary Zuna, L. Stewart Massad, Angela Liu, Michelle I. Silver, S. Terence Dunn, Mark Schiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Sensitivity for detection of precancers at colposcopy and reassurance provided by a negative colposcopy are in need of systematic study and improvement. Objective: We sought to evaluate whether selecting the appropriate women for multiple targeted cervical biopsies based on screening cytology, human papillomavirus testing, and colposcopic impression could improve accuracy and efficiency of cervical precancer detection. Study Design: In all, 690 women aged 18-67 years referred to colposcopy subsequent to abnormal cervical cancer screening results were included in the study (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00339989). Up to 4 cervical biopsies were taken during colposcopy to evaluate the incremental benefit of multiple biopsies. Cervical cytology, human papillomavirus genotyping, and colposcopy impression were used to establish up to 24 different risk strata. Outcomes for the primary analysis were cervical precancers, which included p16 + cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 and all cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 3 that were detected by colposcopy-guided biopsy during the colposcopy visit. Later outcomes in women without cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 + at baseline were abstracted from electronic medical records. Results: The risk of detecting precancer ranged from 2-82% across 24 strata based on colposcopy impression, cytology, and human papillomavirus genotyping. The risk of precancer in the lowest stratum increased only marginally with multiple biopsies. Women in the highest-risk strata had risks of precancer consistent with immediate treatment. In other risk strata, multiple biopsies substantially improved detection of cervical precancer. Among 361 women with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia <2 at baseline, 195 (54%) had follow-up cytology or histology data with a median follow-up time of 508 days. Lack of detection of precancer at initial colposcopy that included multiple biopsies predicted low risk of precancer during follow-up. Conclusion: Risk assessment at the colposcopy visit makes identification of cervical precancers more effective and efficient. Not finding precancer after a multiple-biopsy protocol provides high reassurance and allows releasing women back to regular screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604.e1-604.e8
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • biopsy
  • cervical cancer screening
  • colposcopy
  • precancer
  • risk


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