Working Together in the Slovak Republic to Eliminate Cervical Cancer

Bezplatný samoodberový test

Every year, there are 600-650 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 200-230 to 230 die from this condition in the Slovak Republic. This is despite the fact that cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccination and screening.

In Slovakia there is a low rate of vaccination against HPV and also not enough interest among women to attend preventive gynaecological examinations, including cervical cancer screening. Furthermore, the differences between socio-economic groups are very significant. Health inequities are seen particularly in the marginalised Roma communities.

PRESCRIP-TEC Project in the Slovak Republic

PRESCRIP-TEC Project is focused on the prevention of cervical cancer through unique screening using a self-test for HPV infection. The project is led by the Medical School, University of Groningen. In Slovakia, the project is coordinated by the Institute for Global Health and Epidemiology of Trnava University in close partnership with other institutes of Trnava University, the semi-governmental organization Healthy Regions, the civic association League Against Cancer, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic.

The aim of the 3-year PRESCRIP-TEC project is to contribute towards the availability and quality of health services addressing cervical cancer. This is mainly through innovative community-based cervical cancer screening to detect the presence of HPV in women in a specific age range. The innovation lies mainly in the fact that the screening test is a self-examination – in other words, the test is done by the woman herself. Experts believe that this form of testing will appeal to women and/or communities; who for various reasons, including lack of information and cultural barriers, are prevented from participating in gynaecological screening.

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In Slovakia the project includes women aged 19-64. The implementation of the program is targeted at those groups of Slovak women that have long had very low participation in preventive and screening examinations. This includes marginalised Roma communities and workers in large manufacturing companies. With this approach the effectiveness of the program can be assessed through a comparison with the population-wide screening program that is currently in place in Slovakia.

Free HPV self-test

The unique nature of the project lies in the use of self-collected sampling which detects the presence of high-risk types of HPV virus. These viruses are responsible for almost 99% of all cases of cervical cancer. In contrast, current screening is based on a cytological examination by a gynaecologist. The self-testing method is less invasive and in many respects less of a burden for women. They can do the collection themselves in the private and confidential environment of their own home.

hrHPV self-sampling

Low participation of women in cervical cancer screening, thereby reducing its effectiveness, has been a long-standing problem in the Slovak Republic. The PRESCRIP-TEC project will therefore also analyse the impact of various factors on either increasing or decreasing women’s participation in cervical cancer screening. This will help towards planning the future screening strategy.

The awareness campaign

Information and awareness-raising activities are carried out before proceeding with the self-examination part of the project. The goal of these activities is to raise awareness of cervical cancer, in particular its origin and how it could be prevented and treated. Also to encourage women to get involved in the project. Health promotion assistants provide instruction on how to do the self-collection for the HPV self-test.
Information and educational materials for the awareness campaign took the nature of the project’s target groups into account. The aim was to emphasise the need to prevent cervical cancer – because it is a preventable disease.

Low participation in prevention was found to be largely due to a lack of knowledge about what prevention and where and how the screening is implemented. Appropriate presentation formats, communicating the information in clear language, and printed materials, are all essential parts of the success of any health intervention in the communities.

Real data

The PRESCRIP-TEC project will be the first within the Slovak Republic to bring real data and experience with this innovative approach to cervical cancer screening. It will serve as a valuable basis for its state-coordinated implementation in the future.

By increasing screening efficiency and improving early diagnosis for cervical cancer, the project will also contribute to the global fight against the disease as announced in 2020 by the World Health Organisation in its Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer.

You can find more information, in Slovak, in the sources used for this article: