Until recently cervical cancer screening in Italy has been mainly spontaneous, with only a few organised programmes. This resulted in low coverage and high frequency of tests in screened women (mostly every year). The situation is, however, rapidly changing. In 1996 nationwide organised programmes, on a regional basis, were recommended. National guidelines recommend personal invitation of women aged 25-64 years for a Pap-test every third year. At the end of 1999 34% of the Italian population 25-64 years old was included in organised programmes. Most organised programmes have fail-safe systems for women referred for colposcopy, protocols for diagnostic work-up and treatment and reference centres for such phases, according to the recommendations of national and European guidelines. However the size of laboratories is frequently smaller than recommended. Most organised programmes implement quality assurance processes for cytology interpretation, that have been intensive in some centre, but there is no nationwide standardisation. In recent years data for monitoring screening activity have been collected in a standardised way by most organised programmes, in the framework of GISCi (Italian Group for Cervical Cancer Screening) allowing internal and external comparisons. In some cases strong improvements of coverage after the introduction of an organised activity have been documented. Data, however, suggest a relevant heterogeneity of criteria for cytology interpretation, requiring actions to increase consistency. The impact of these transformations on incidence of cervical cancer will be observed in the future: preliminary results suggest a reduction in older programmes. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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