Nfld. & Labrador

Cervical screening initiative sending at-home Pap tests to some N.L. women

When Lyndsey Hamen checked her mail earlier this March, she saw something she didn't expect to see in her mailbox — a Pap test.

Province trying new methods to combat high cervical cancer rates

Lyndsey Hamen was sent this Pap test in the mail. (Lyndsey Hamen/Facebook)

When Lyndsey Hamen checked her mail earlier this March, she saw something she didn't expect to see in her mailbox — a Pap test.

The first thing that went through her head was a sense of confusion.

"It seemed like a really great idea, but I just never heard anything about it," she said.

"I just got this random mystery package from Eastern Health in the mail and I was a little bit surprised when it turned out to be a collection kit."

It turns out Hamen received the kit as part of a new trial being conducted by the province's cervical screening initiative program.

Kits being sent to women overdue for tests

Joanne Rose, the program's director, said the kits are being sent out to a select number of women who are overdue for their Pap tests, which doctors recommend be done every three years.

For the past six years, she said the province has been contacting women to let them know they're overdue for screening.

But in the past, no self-testing kits were sent out, and Rose said studies found that sending reminders by phone or via mail was leading to only one out of every three woman going into their health-care provider to get tested.

"What we're looking to do is a research study to say, OK, if women had the opportunity to either be reminded to go back in to book a Pap smear or do a self test at home, which one would be more successful?" said Rose.

Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country. (CBC)

She said some women may be more comfortable doing a self test at home instead of going to the doctor, and that's something this trial aims to figure out.

High rate of cervical cancer in N.L.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer if caught early, but Newfoundland and Labrador still has one of the highest rates in the country.

According to 2017 statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society, Newfoundland and Labrador has a rate of 10.7 individuals with cervical cancer per 100,000 people in the province.

Rose said routine cervical screening should begin for women starting at the age of 21. The province will examine the effectiveness of the at-home kits before determining if they will send out more in the future.

But there's at least one woman who's jumping at the opportunity to take the test at home, even if she wasn't initially sure why she was sent a screening kit.

"It really is a great thing," said Hamen. "I didn't know we were that far ahead, that we could just all just be swabbing ourselves at home, in which case everyone should get one." 

Rose said preliminary results of the study should be available in June.