Research spotlight: CervixCheck

Cervical cancer screening using the pap test remains critical for this preventable disease. In BC, provincial screening rates have remained the same over the last decade where approximately 30% of the population are under or never screened. Despite this, few interventions have been implemented to increase screening, where rates are lowest among priority populations who face barriers to clinic-based screening.

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CervixCheck is a website developed by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and the BC Cancer Cervix Screening Program. Using CervixCheck, women who are overdue for cervical cancer screening can order a kit to perform cervical cancer screening at home. This is a pilot research project where women will be recruited from collaborating family medical clinics in Surrey, an urban centre with some of the lowest regional screening rates in the province and large South Asian population.

CervixCheck was modelled off of the successful BCCDC “virtual clinic” for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) called GetCheckedOnline.com (GCO), using existing code-base, infrastructure and safeguards. Evaluations of GCO have demonstrated:

  • high diagnosis rates;
  • high satisfaction because of the privacy and convenience of the online service;
  • users reported barriers to accessing testing prior to the service, compared to clinic clients;
  • despite common assumptions GCO users were not more likely to be youth or have higher digital literacy;
  • the service reached previously untested individuals.

Online services for self-collection at home, and clinician-collected screening for HPV testing are available commercially in Canada, however CervixCheck will be the first service of its kind administered in the publicly funded health system. To verify our assumptions in the development stages of the project, we administered a digital health survey to assess South Asian womens’ willingness to use the service and digital literacy. Women were recruited from the family practice clinics where CervixCheck will be piloted, and included 51 women between 30-65 years. Among the findings from this survey we found that

  • 30% of women reported being under/never-screened
  • Over 86% of women self-rated their general Internet skills as average or better
  • 80% of women responded somewhat likely to very likely to participate in CervixCheck
  • 70% of women responded somewhat likely to very likely to collecting their own vaginal specimen
  • Over 90% of women feel comfortable reading and understanding English

CervixCheck is planning to launch in January 2019 and will be available in English for the pilot, however the print and instructional materials associated with the screening project will also be offered in Punjabi. The lessons from this pilot project will be used to inform possible implementation within the BC Cervix Screening Program, as well as other under-screened populations, particularly in Northern BC where our team had engaged stakeholders and secured funding for an additional pilot.