To evaluate alternative cervical cancer screening methods, digital colposcopy and collection of cervical exfoliated cells for liquid-based cytology (LBC) and hybrid capture 2 (HC2) testing were performed among 2562 women aged 15–59 years in three study sites in the People's Republic of China (rural Shanxi province, Shenyang city in Liaoning province and Shenzhen city in Guangdong province). Visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) was also evaluated independently from colposcopy. A total of 74 cases of histologically confirmed cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse (CIN2+) were identified, and 16 CIN2+ cases were imputed among unbiopsied women to correct for verification bias. Corrected sensitivity for CIN2+ was 37% for VIA, 54% for colposcopy, 87% for LBC with a threshold of atypical cells of undetermined significance (LBC⩾ASCUS), 90% for HC2, 84% for LBC using HC2 to triage ASCUS and 96% for positivity to LBC⩾ASCUS or HC2. For VIA, sensitivity was much lower among women ⩾40 years (12%) than those aged ⩽39 years (50%). Specificity varied from 77% for positivity to LBC⩾ASCUS or HC2, up to 94% for LBC using HC2 to triage ASCUS. In conclusion, LBC, HC2 and their combinations performed well, whereas VIA missed a majority of CIN2+, particularly in older women. Digital colposcopy performed better than VIA, but still missed nearly half of CIN2+ in this study
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