Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if detected early. However, many women do not regularly screen for cervical cancer. This may be due to discomfort, embarrassment and fear of a pelvic exam. Given that women with persistent infection with human papillomavirus or HPV (a sexually transmitted virus) are 20-70 times as likely to develop cervical cancer as those without HPV, there has been much interest in the use of HPV testing to screen for cervical cancer. Studies have shown that HPV testing is as effective as traditional Pap testing in screening for cervical cancer but it allows for the possibility of self-collection. Research shows that self-collection methods are effective and acceptable to women. Vaginal swabs, in particular, are considered simple to use and effective at collecting samples for HPV analysis. However, studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness, acceptability, and usage of self-sampling for HPV for women in the general population. This study will determine if the introduction of a self-collection strategy for HPV screening results in increased cervical cancer screening in a community-based setting.
Three communities in Newfoundland will be studied. One community will receive an educational/promotional program around self-collection of vaginal specimens for HPV testing and women aged 30-69 will be offered the option to self-collect. Another community will receive an educational/ promotional program around regular Pap smear testing. Women in both communities will be asked to complete a short questionnaire focusing on demographics and screening behaviors. The third community will receive no intervention. Screening rates in the 3 communities will be compared to each other and to screening rates of the previous year to determine if the option to self-collect increased the number of women screened for cervical cancer. Increasing the rate at which women are screened will lead to corresponding decreases in the rates of advanced cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths.