Chilean women's attitudes toward Pap screening reminder texts vary by age

A study in JMIR mHealth and UHealth investigated the barriers preventing Chilean women from being tested for cervical cancer.
By Laura Lovett

Age played a major role in Chilean women’s attitudes toward text message reminders for Papanicolaou (Pap) testing, according to a small study published by JMIR mHealth and uHealth.

The study set out to investigate the barriers preventing Chilean women from getting tested for cervical cancer by setting up focus groups to talk to patients. Twenty-seven women between the ages of 25 and 64 who did not adhere to cervical cancer screenings participated in the focus groups, as well as 10 midwives and one paramedic. Researchers conducted a total of nine focus groups, including three with women ages 25 to 44, three with women 45 to 64 and three with healthcare professionals. 

“Focus group results indicated that older women use mobile phones to receive calls from family and friends but seldom send text messages,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, they prefer personal contact with their health care providers regarding [Pap] testing. Younger women, on the other hand, find text messaging easy to use and frequently send texts to family and friends. Importantly, women of all ages mentioned they would like to receive text messages about Pap tests.”

Researchers found that among the young women groups, participants reported using their cell phones multiple times a day. However, in the older age range, the majority of women only used their phones once every two to three days. 

Financial burden and lack of technological savvy were some of the hurdles focus group participants named. The study reports that health professionals in the focus group thought that women would be receptive to the initiative, but were “reluctant to believe mobile technologies could help improve Pap test adherence rates unless several barriers were addressed.” 

Why it matters 

The study reports that cervical-uterine cancer is the fourth leading oncological cause of death in Chile. Pap tests can be an early indicator of health conditions. Researchers said that text-based interventions have been successful in the past, but there is very little research in that area for this particular population. 

“Interventions based on short message service text messaging have shown efficacy in encouraging behavior modification and improving health. Recently, evidence has showed that these interventions have been able to increase the cancer screening adherence,” researchers wrote in the background of the study. “However, there is insufficient evidence to characterize maximally effective interventions, and none of these studies have been conducted in Latin American countries.”

What's the trend 

This isn’t the first time a study has been done on text interventions for cervical cancer screenings. In 2014, researchers in Minnesota published a study in JMIR exploring the potential of mobile health to reach people who frequently go untested. The team discovered that a text message intervention could help Korean American women, a group with one of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in the United State, more frequently receive Pap tests. 

On the record 

“Although the overall acceptance was positive, older women prefer personal contact and phone calls over text messaging,” researchers wrote. “Information surrounding these preferences will aid in the implementation of effective strategies to improve cancer screening in underserved populations.”