Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. Almost all tumours of the cervix are attributable to persistent infection with certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). In recent years, around 260 women were diagnosed every year with cervical cancer in Switzerland. In developed countries, the number of women dying of cervical cancer has almost halved in the last 30 years. Every year, around 70 women die of cervical cancer in Switzerland.

The benefit of cervical cancer screening is undisputed. Screening enables tissue changes in the cervix to be detected at an early stage, preventing cancer or enabling it to be treated promptly. Currently, screening in Switzerland usually involves investigating cell changes (cytological examination) in a cervical smear. In other countries however, smears are increasingly being tested for specific types of HP virus. In Switzerland, it is women personally or their doctors who request a screening test (opportunistic screening).

The Cancer Screening Committee has drawn up recommendations regarding cytological cervical cancer screening. In so doing, it has taken into account the evidence of clinical efficacy and the risks and benefits of this screening method, economic analyses and studies on the attitudes and preferences of women. Other aspects included in this decision were equal access, acceptance and feasibility of implementation. The committee also drew on feedback from stakeholders and consulted external experts on technical and practical aspects of the decision.

Recommendations of the Cancer Screening Committee on cervical cancer screening:

The target group consists of all persons with a cervix who are aged from 21 to 70 years.

  1. For persons aged 30 to 70 years, the committee proposes a primary HPV test with subsequent cytology triage as the cervical smear test method (GRADE weak recommendation).

  2. For persons aged 21 to 29 years, cervical cancer screening with cytology is recommended (GRADE strong recommendation).

  3. Regardless of age group, the committee recommends a screening interval of three years instead of one year (GRADE strong recommendation).

  4. Regardless of age group, the committee also proposes a screening interval of five years instead of three years (GRADE weak recommendation).

  5. The committee recommends reimbursement of the cost of the HPV test as a screening test by the statutory health insurance (GRADE strong recommendation).

Further information