Abnormal cervical cytology requiring colposcopy among women under the age of 30 years in the Western Cape Province, South Africa
Background. Although cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in South Africa, the Department of Health’s current national screening policy only offers women a free cervical smear at 30, 40 and 50 years of age.
Methods. Data on cervical smears were obtained from the computerised records of the Cytopathology Laboratory at Groote Schuur Hospital (GHS), Cape Town, for the years 2009 and 2010. Total and age-specific prevalences of women who had undergone cervical smear screening were calculated.
Results. Of a total of 108 542 cervical smears processed at GHS, 21% were cervical smears taken from women under 30 years of age; 3 080 women were referred for colposcopy at GSH, and 19% of these women were under 30 years of age.
Conclusion. These results suggest that ‘first-time’ screening at 30 years could be too late for many young women with invasive or microinvasive cancer.