BC to Offer New Self-Screening Test for Cervical Cancer


​Cervix self-screening is a step towards more cult​​urally safe, trauma-informed and accessible health care for First Nations people in BC


​The BC Government recently announced the launch of a new self-screening program that will help detect cervical cancer sooner.

As of January 29, eligible clients will be able to get a test kit from either a medical centre or primary care provider, or by mail. They can complete it wherever they are most comfortable, including at home, then mail it back.

The new tests can be completed through an easy self-collection process and offer more accurate results than a Pap test—the previous standard for cervical cancer screening. This will allow individuals to test less frequently than with a Pap test.

“We're excited about this development for a number of reasons," says Dr. Nel Wieman, Acting Chief Medical Officer, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). “When we screen for cancer, it means we're trying to detect cancer before there are symptoms. Early detection is key for better health outcomes."

First Nations people in BC experience higher rates of cervical cancer than non-First Nations people as a result of inequities that can cause barriers to accessing healthcare services, including cancer screening.

For example, due to systemic racism in the health care system, many First Nations people have had negative or traumatic experiences when accessing services. This can cause reluctance or fear about going in for recommended cancer screenings or seeking treatment.

In addition, many First Nations communities are located in rural and remote areas. The lack of available services close to home means those who live in community have to travel longer distances to receive medical care. This can make accessing regular cancer screening more difficult.

“The new self-administered tests will address some of these barriers that First Nations people are facing," says Dr. Wieman. “This is about empowering our people to have more control over their own cancer screening."

Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Medical Director, Women's Health, FNHA saw the benefits of the new test firsthand while leading the cervix self-screening pilot program in one First Nations community in BC. 

“We saw cases of individuals who had experienced past trauma and never received a Pap test who were now completing self-screening for HPV," says Dr. Malhotra. “Our hope is that the cervix self-screening program will improve screening rates and therefore cervical cancer health outcomes for First Nations people in BC.

“It's important to remember that cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccination and screening. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate cervical cancer altogether."

The FNHA will be publishing new health resources to support cervix self-screening in the coming weeks. For more information on cancer prevention, screening and treatment, visit fnha.ca/cancer.​

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