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Frequently Asked Questions

You can contact us at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635. We may not get back to you immediately, but we will try our best to respond to you within 3 business days. We have included a list of common questions about CervixCheck, HPV-based cervix screening, and cervical cancer screening below.

1. How is CervixCheck different from cervical cancer screening offered by my health care provider?

In Canada, cervical cancer screening is done using the Pap test where a doctor will perform a pelvic exam to take a sample of cells from the cervix which is then tested to see if there are any abnormalities. Pap testing has been used since the 1950s and has led to large reductions in cervical cancer around the world. In recent years, medical advances have created stronger tools to identify individuals at risk for having cervical cancer and pre-cancer sooner by testing for HPV directly using an HPV test.

CervixCheck offers HPV-based cervix screening, which is a safe and extensively researched method for cervical cancer screening, and many countries have already started using, or are planning to use HPV-based cervix screening in their screening programs, including Canada. Through CervixCheck, you will collect your sample yourself using a vaginal swab, a safe and easy process called “self-collection” or “self-sampling”. With this approach, you can be screened anywhere the self-collection package is sent. This offers the opportunity to have screening done in private without having to see a health care provider for a pelvic exam. This sample then undergoes HPV testing when it’s received at the lab.

2. How do I get an access code to use CervixCheck?

Participating clinics in the Fraser Health region have been provided everything you should need to register. You are only be eligible for CervixCheck if you are between 25-65 years of age, and if you have not had cervical cancer screening in 3 or more years. If you are interested in participating in the Métis​ Nation BC project​, you must contact the CerviixCheck team to receive the screening code. 

You may have to review further eligibility criteria prior to receiving a screening code.​ If you are still unsure, you can contact us at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635 for more information.

3. What will my results look like on my CervixCheck account?

You will be able to view your negative HPV testing results on your CervixCheck account. If there was a problem with the sample collected or if your results require follow-up, then you will see a message asking you to contact the clinic or physician who referred you to CervixCheck. You can also contact the CervixCheck team. You will not receive your screening results by email.

4. My regular physician is not listed when I try to create a CervixCheck account. 

CervixCheck is a pilot research project that is currently being offered only through collaborating health clinics in the Fraser Health region, and in the Northwest of BC. In the Fraser Health region, the physician you should include on your CervixCheck account is the physician or clinic that referred you to CervixCheck.

If you are a participant from the Smithers Métis​ Nation BC project, please choose "Smithers Community Health Clinic" as your provider. If you are a participant from the Terrace Métis​ Nation BC project, please choose​ "Spruce Medical Clinic - Dr. Amy Passmore" as your provider. If you are from the Prince Rupert Métis​ Nation BC project, please choose​ "2nd Avenue Medical Clinic - Dr. Corneli Coetzee" as your provider.

5. It’s been several weeks and I have not received notification of my eligibility 

It should only be a few days after you register for a CervixCheck account that you receive an email letting you know whether you are eligible to participate. Check the spam folder of your email, or log into your CervixCheck account to see if there have been any updates to your status. If your CervixCheck account still says “Pending”, contact us at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635.

6. I received an email that notified me that I am not eligible for CervixCheck, but I don’t understand why. 

CervixCheck is a research project with set eligibility criteria, which means that some people may not be eligible to participate. The most likely reason you may not be eligible:

  • you are not between the ages of 25-65 years
  • you have had a cervical screen in the last 3 years
  • the PHN you provided on your CervixCheck account could not be verified

If you are still unsure about your eligibility you can contact the CervixCheck team at 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635.

7. Why can’t women younger than 30 years use CervixCheck?

Women younger than 30 years old are more likely to have an HPV infection that will resolve naturally without intervention. To prevent unnecessary and over treatment, HPV-based cervix screening is not recommended for women younger than 30.

8. I chose to have my screening kit mailed to the clinic that referred me to CervixCheck. When will I know when it is available to pick up? 

Your clinic or physician will not notify you when your screening kit is available for pick-up. After you have received your notification confirming that you are eligible and that your screening kit has been mailed, it should arrive within approximately 5 business days. If you have not heard from the clinic, we recommend you call the clinic to confirm that the kit is available for pick up.

9. It’s been several weeks and I have not received my screening kit in the mail.

From the time we confirm your eligibily and mail the screening kit to your home, it could take 5-10 business days for you to receive the kit. Verify the mailing address and other details you included on your CervixCheck account. If there is an error in this information, or if it is correct and you still haven’t received your screening kit, contact us at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635.

10. Will I do self-collection correctly?

If you follow the instructions provided on the CervixCheck website or in your screening kit, your self-collected sample should be very accurate. HPV-based cervix screening only requires a small vaginal sample to be accurate.

11. Will self-collection hurt? Is it safe?

At home HPV-based cervix screening is very safe and it will not hurt to perform. Using the swab should feel similar to using a small tampon.

12. It’s been several weeks and I have not received notification that my screening results are ready 

From the time you mail your screening kit and it gets tested at the laboratory, it could take about 5-6 weeks for your results to become available. If after this time you still haven’t received notification of your results, and they are not available on your CervixCheck account, contact us at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635.

13. I am menstruating and I already mailed my self-collected screening kit, can my sample be tested?

It is preferable that you wait until after menstruation to collect your self-collected sample, particularly if you are bleeding heavily. If you have already submitted your sample, it can be tested at the laboratory, however it may be more likely that your results will be inconclusive, in which case you will be asked to submit a new sample.

14. I have used CervixCheck and received my cervical cancer screening results, can I use CervixCheck again at a later time?

At this time, repeat screening using CervixCheck is not available and screening more frequently than is recommended is not necessary. You will receive a notification from BC Cancer when you are next due for screening. Contact the clinic or physician who referred you to CervixCheck for information about cervical cancer screening intervals.

15. I entered information incorrectly on my CervxCheck account and I need to change it.

You can change your account information by logging into your CervixCheck account and selecting “My Account” on the top right corner of the page.

If you entered your address incorrectly and you have already received an email confirming that your screening kit has been mailed to you, please contact us directly at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 1-888-300-3088 ext 5635 for us to mail you another kit.

16. Can cervical cancer be prevented?

Cervical cancer can be prevented. Screening can find abnormal cells on your cervix before they become cancer. If these changes are found and treated early, cervical cancer can be prevented. Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There is a vaccine that protects against types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.

17. What causes cervical cancer?

Most cervical cancers are caused by a common virus called HPV which is easily spread through intimate contact, including oral, vaginal and anal sex. Almost all people will get HPV at some point in their lives - often without knowing it. This is because most HPV infections go away naturally, and can take decades to progress to cervical cancer from long-term HPV infections.

18. If I have HPV will I get cervical cancer?

There are more than 100 types of HPV - some types are high risk for cervical cancer, while others are not. Usually, the body’s immune system clears the virus by itself within 2 years. However, for some women the HPV does not clear from the body and over time, it can cause abnormal cell changes in the cervix that you cannot see or feel. These abnormal cells can develop into cervical cancer if they are not found and treated early enough.

Almost all people will get HPV at some point in their lives - often without knowing it. This is because most HPV infections go away naturally, and can take decades to progress to cervical cancer from long-term HPV infections.

18. What is HPV-based cervix screening?

HPV-based cervix screening involves a sample being collected from inside the vagina close to the cervix. The sample is taken to the laboratory for testing. It is a safe and very good way to screen for cervical cancer. If you test negative for HPV the changes that you have HPV or changes to cells on your cervix are very low. If you test positive for HPV, then additional testing can be done to determine next steps. Having a positive HPV test does not mean that you have pre-cancer or cancer. But it does mean that there is a potential risk which should be monitored.

20. Why do I need to test for HPV? Why change from the Pap test?

The Pap test has been very successful in decreasing cervical cancer rates in areas where Pap testing is widely available. However, now that it is known that the cause of cervical cancer is HPV, tests have been developed to detect the presence of HPV. Pap testing detects changes to the cells on the cervix once they have already occurred. Whereas, HPV testing detects for the presence of HPV, which is the virus that causes cell changes to the cervix, giving us the ability to identify women at risk for having changes to the cells of the cervix, often before they develop.

HPV has always caused cervical cancer, but when screening first started this wasn't known and previously the ability to test women for HPV wasn't available. Since we now know what causes cervical cancer, technology has advanced so that HPV testing is available to detect this virus that is the cause of cervical cancer.

Screening programs are planning to eventually move away from the Pap test as the first method of screening for cervical cancer for women of certain ages, and will start to use HPV testing which is very good at identifying women at risk for having cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. If you have ever had any sexual contact you should receive cervical cancer screening.

21. Does the number of sexual partners a person has increase their risk of having HPV? 

Having intimate sexual contact with more people may increase your risk of being exposed to more types of HPV, but even if you have had sexual contact with one or a few people, you may still be exposed to HPV.

22. Do older women need cervical cancer screening?

Cervical cancer screening can stop at age 69 if your results have always been normal. Ask your doctor or health care provider if you should still be tested.

23. I have received the HPV vaccine, do I still need to be screened?

Regular Pap tests are still necessary for women who have had the HPV vaccine. The vaccine protects against some types of HPV, but not all. You should still screen regularly for cervical cancer if:

  • You’ve been through menopause;
  • You’ve had only one sexual partner or have been with the same partner for a while;
  • You’ve had the HPV vaccine;
  • You’re in a same-sex relationship; or,
  • You’re a transgender individual with a cervix.

24. I have been with the same partner for many years, why do I need to screen for HPV?

Cervical cancer screening is recommended for all women of screening age, who have had any sexual contact, regardless of how many people you have had sexual contact with, or how long in the past or how recent sexual activity has been.

25. Should I do HPV-based cervix screening every time I have a new partner?

It is not necessary to do HPV-based cervix screening more often than recommended, even if you have new sexual partners. It's important to remember that HPV is very common in the population and most times, when people get an HPV infection, it goes away on its own, without a person even knowing they have it. If you test for HPV too often, it is possible HPV infections will be detected that would otherwise go away on their own and this could lead to anxiety or unnecessary treatment. It's only persistent HPV infections that last many years (usually more than 10) that may cause cell changes on the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer.

It's important to know that HPV-based cervix screening does NOT check for other sexually transmitted infections.

26. I haven't been sexually active for many years, why do I need to screen for HPV?

If you are a woman of screening age, and have ever had any sexual contact, regardless of how far in the past that contact was, it's important to receive cervical cancer screening.

27. What's the cure for HPV (or) How is HPV treated?

There is no cure or treatment for HPV itself. HPV is very common, and most times a person can clear an HPV infection with their own immune system; however, this does not mean you are then immune to HPV. It is possible to catch HPV again if you are exposed in the future.

Although there is no treatment specifically for HPV, treatment can be aimed at problems associated with HPV infection. If there are abnormal cells on the cervix you may require a colposcopy, which is a procedure that allows the doctor to have a closer examination of your cervix than can occur during routine screening. Depending on the findings at colposcopy, treatment may be required to remove the abnormal cells from your cervix.

28. How can HPV be prevented?

Total abstinence, with no sexual contact of any kind is the only way to completely prevent HPV infection. However, there are steps that can lower your risk of getting HPV.

  • Vaccines: Other than abstinence, HPV vaccination is the best protection against HPV infections.
  • Reduce the number of sexual partners you have: The less sexual partners you have the less chance you will be exposed to HPV. If you have sexual contact with a partner who has had many sexual partners, you increase your chances of catching HPV.
  • Wear condoms: Although condoms won't completely eliminate the risk of HPV transmission they can reduce the risk and are effective protection against other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Do not smoke: Smoking may impair the body's own ability to fight off HPV and other infections.
  • Go for cervical cancer screening as recommended.

29. Should my boyfriend/husband do HPV-based screening?

At this time, there is no approved test for HPV in men. Serious health complications related to HPV in men are rare; therefore, there are no general HPV screening recommendations for men. In the absence of such screening, it is important men see their health care providers for regular check-ups or to have any specific signs and symptoms investigated.

30. How can I tell if a partner has HPV?

It is not possible to tell when someone has HPV unless you can visibly see genital warts. HPV usually has no signs or symptoms. It's important to remember HPV is very common and over 75-80% of sexually active people will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.

31. If I have an HPV test, can I still get a Pap test every year?

It is not necessary to have Pap tests in addition to HPV testing for cervical cancer screening. HPV testing screens for the presence of the virus that causes cervical cancer. Pap testing identifies changes on the cells of the cervix caused by HPV, once these changes have already occurred. If you are HPV negative, it is unlikely the cells of your cervix have any abnormalities, and you can safely wait until you are due for another HPV test as recommended by the screening program.

32. What is BC’s recommendation for cervix screening?

The Cervix Screening Program does not recommend private pay HPV-based cervix screening at this time. The current BC cervix screening guidelines effectively prevent and detect cervical cancer for those eligible. Cervix screening is recommended for women ages 25 to 69 living in BC. Those at average risk of developing cervical cancer should be screened every three years with a Pap test.

33. Why is HPV-based cervix screening not used in BC’s Cervix Screening Program?

The Cervix Screening Program is exploring HPV-based screening for women ages 30 to 69 years old. It is important that all aspects of patient care and education, health care provider education, and cervix screening program operations are coordinated and prepared before a major testing change is introduced.​​

34. Why is self-collected HPV-based cervix screening not recommended for women living with HIV?

If you are HIV positive you should not participate in the study. Please discuss with your family physician or community nurse for more information. ​​HPV-based cervix screening is not recommended for women who are HIV positive as the follow-up care after testing is different. ​After a negative HPV test, a woman who is HIV positive should return for screening after 1 year, rather than 3 years.


Cervical Cancer Screening

In the province of British Columbia, cervical cancer screening is done using the pap test. To learn more about pap testing, visit the BC Cancer Cervix Screening Program website.

A New Way to Test for Cervical Cancer

CervixCheck uses HPV testing for cervical cancer screening, which is safe and effective. This method allows you to collect your own sample using a discreet kit mailed to your home.
Learn More about HPV, HPV testing, and self-screening

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Contact us

You can reach us at cervixcheck@bccancer.bc.ca, or 604-875-2424 ext 5635.

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