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Strategies to reach marginalized women for cervical cancer screening: A qualitative study of stakeholder perspectives

B. Wood, A. Lofters, M. Vahabi



Self-sampling for human papillomavirus (hpv) has the potential to reach marginalized populations that are underserved for cervical cancer screening. However, before implementing an alternative screening strategy such as self-sampling for under- and never-screened women, the key processes, facilitators, and barriers to reform need to be understood.


A descriptive qualitative study was conducted that involved semi-structured interviews with Canadian and international cancer screening health care providers and policy-makers. Respondents were purposively selected from a list of thirty stakeholders generated through an environmental scan. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using directed content analysis.


Nineteen stakeholders participated in the interviews. Most respondents thought that self-sampling was an appropriate cervical screening alternative for hard-to-reach populations, as it addressed barriers to cervical screening related to various social determinants of health. All respondents emphasized that transitioning to hpv primary screening would catalyze a policy shift towards self-sampling. Clinician respondents were less enthusiastic about self-sampling strategies since that discouraged women’s appointments with primary care providers, because cervical screening offered an opportunity to discuss other preventive health topics. There also was little consensus between respondents on whether the state of evidence was satisfactory to integrate a self-sampling option into policy, or whether more Canadian research was needed.


Canadian cervical cancer screening stakeholders should collaborate to identify the knowledge gaps that researchers should address and leverage the existing literature to implement tailored, patient-centred alternative cervical screening strategies. The transition to hpv primary screening would be a key first step in the broad implementation of hpv self-sampling in Canada.


Cervical cancer; hpv self-sampling; barriers; cervical cancer screening; social determinants of health; vulnerable population

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)