Cervical cancer screening activity in the Capital Region of Denmark before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic


OBJECTIVE: Denmark went through various COVID-19 pandemic restrictions including periodic lockdowns from March 2020 to January 2022. All cancer screening programs were kept operational, yet access to clinicians for cervical screening was at times limited. We assessed the impact of the pandemic on cervical cancer screening activity in the Capital Region of Denmark.

METHODS: Cervical screening activity was defined as regular screening by invitation, opportunistic screening, and screening participation by HPV self-sampling. Activity was monitored during and post-pandemic and compared relatively to a 3-year pre-pandemic reference.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The activity of cervical cancer screening was initially affected by the pandemic lockdowns, but increased activity during summer 2020 partly compensated this effect. Regular screening activity decreased 8.4% in 2020 and returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. During 2022 restrictions were removed and the decrease in activity was recorded to be 2.3%. Opportunistic screening activity was reduced by 14.3% in 2020 and 12.6% in 2021. A continued post-pandemic opportunistic screening activity reduction of 18.5% was observed, possibly related to changed patterns of primary health care use introduced during the pandemic. Screening by HPV self-sampling increased from 17.1% in the pre-pandemic period to 21.2% during the pandemic. Significantly more acceptance was recorded amongst older women (p < 0.0001). This increase mirrors the decrease in total clinician collected sample activity during the pandemic, where an increased reduction by age was observed. Post-pandemic HPV self-sampling participation decreased to 12.8%, possible reflecting a temporarily changed composition and motivation in the group of women invited for self-sampling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107888
JournalPreventive Medicine
Pages (from-to)107888
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Female
  • Humans
  • Aged
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms/diagnosis
  • Early Detection of Cancer/methods
  • Pandemics/prevention & control
  • Vaginal Smears
  • Papillomavirus Infections/diagnosis
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Self Care/methods
  • COVID-19/diagnosis
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Specimen Handling/methods
  • Mass Screening/methods
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • Participation
  • HPV
  • COVID-19
  • Cervical cancer screening
  • HPV self-sampling
  • Opportunistic screening


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