British Columbia

Pop-up Pap test event to be held in Victoria next month

A team of doctors is organizing a pop-up Pap test event in Victoria next month following concerns about a backlog in tests and results.

B.C. Cancer recommends people with a cervix get tested once every 3 years

Two doctors, one with a stethoscope around her neck, have a medical discussion while looking at paperwork.
A team of doctors on Vancouver Island is organizing cervical screening tests In response to a backlog of overdue patients. (Shutterstock)

In response to a backlog of patients overdue for their cervical screening tests, a team of doctors on Vancouver Island is organizing a pop-up Pap test event next month called Papapalooza.

Pap tests are cervical screening tests for cancerous or abnormal cells, and B.C. Cancer recommends people with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 69 book a screening once every three years.

Abnormal cervical cells can potentially signal the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus spread through sex, serious forms of which can lead to cervical cancer.

The return to in-person health care resulted in a backlog of more than 100,000 screening samples, according to B.C. Cancer, which says typically 20,000 tests are processed in four weeks, and these standards are not anticipated to return until the end of March. 

In late January, B.C. Cancer said there was a backlog of 60,000 tests waiting to be processed.

Papapalooza co-organizer Anika Brown says while B.C. Cancer estimates only two-thirds of individuals who are eligible for a pap test are up-to-date, some people are going five to 10 years between screenings.

"For people to access this screening, they have to obviously go in person, and it's much easier if you have a family doctor," Brown said, "But for the thousands of people in B.C. that don't, they have to access the screening through either a walk-in clinic or a sexual health clinic."

Brown said this event was founded by two doctors in Nanaimo, and she and co-organizer Alisha Hussey, have received a grant from the Canadian Federation of Medical Students to expand Papapalooza across the province.

"The purpose is for people that don't have a family doctor, or otherwise cannot access their family doctor and experience multiple barriers for cervical cancer screening, to come to our event, have a safe and welcoming environment, to have their cervical cancer screening done," Brown said. 

Papapalooza is scheduled for April 15 at the Vancouver Island Women's Clinic, and organizers expect around 110 appointments will be available.

Brown says those who would like to book a screening can sign up online through the event's Instagram page or the clinic's website and need to have an MSP number. After individuals sign up, she said a medical student will call to book an appointment, and the physicians at the clinic will contact patients with their screening results.

With files from Arrthy Thayaparan and On The Island with Gregor Craigie