The key objective of the Screening Group is to generate evidence about the accuracy, reproducibility, efficacy, benefits, harmful effects, and cost–effectiveness of various early detection interventions for breast, cervical, colorectal, and oral cancers, among others, in reducing cancer mortality and improving patients’ quality of life in various settings. The Group’s research programmes also focus on generating evidence to make human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination accessible and affordable to all.
The aim of cancer screening is to reduce the incidence of and/or mortality from cancer by detecting early preclinical disease, for which treatment may be simpler and more effective than that for advanced cancer diagnosed after the symptoms appear. Educating the population about the early symptoms of common cancer types and ensuring access to prompt and appropriate diagnosis and treatment (early clinical diagnosis) is also a well-recognized approach to early detection of cancer. The Screening Group’s research projects generate valuable evidence to advance population screening for selected cancer types as well as to improve early diagnosis of common cancer types.
For screening to be effective, the screening programme should be well organized and ensure high coverage of the eligible population; must incorporate a screening test that is accurate, feasible, affordable, culturally acceptable, and safe; should provide prompt diagnostic, treatment, and follow-up services to those with positive results from screening tests; and should ensure the quality at every step. To minimize the harms and increase the benefits of screening, the services should be evidence-based, quality-assured, and equitably distributed. A major focus of the Screening Group is to generate evidence on the real-world effectiveness of cancer early detection programmes by measuring their performance in different settings using a common set of indicators.
In alignment with the World Health Organization (WHO) call to action for the global elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem, the Screening Group has generated valuable evidence on HPV self-sampling, different triage options for HPV-positive women, thermal ablation as an affordable treatment method, and the efficacy of a single dose of HPV vaccine. The ultimate goal of the Screening Group’s research initiatives is to catalyse the widespread implementation of feasible and cost-effective primary and secondary prevention strategies for the common cancer types, particularly in countries with limited resources.