Introduction Recent studies have documented differences in cancer rates between female and male U.S. firefighters, including cervical cancer. Despite heightened concern that firefighters may have an increased cancer risk, few studies have examined the cancer prevention strategies pertinent to female firefighters. Cervical cancer is among one of the most common cancers diagnosed in this cohort. Screening underutilization likely accounts for most of the observed, excess cervical cancer risk. This study aims to circumvent the barriers of shift work with the implementation of a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) self sampler in a sample of active female firefighters in Florida, United States.
Methods Female firefighters were recruited from their departments during station visits and cancer eductaion seminars. Women completed eligibility screeners and informed consent prior to participation. If eligible, women received a HPV self-sampler to complete at home or at the fire station. Specimens were returned to the lab for analysis. HPV results were given over the telephone and those who screened HPV positive were referred for folllow-up care with their primary physician.
Result A total of 251 female firefighters were screened for eligibility, of whom 31 (12.3%) were eligible and interested in participating. Self-sampling kits were sent to 31 of the eligible subjects; 14 (45.0%) participants returned the kits, and 1 (7.0%) received a positive HPV result. Particpants felt self-sampling was easy to self-administer and would repeat the use of the self-sampler as per national screening guidelines.
Discussion Female firefighters who completed the self sampling kit in this pilot study reported preference for work-site based education and screening options as compared to a traditional women’s health exam with a healthcare provider. Further strategies to increase cancer screeining among female firefighters engaging in shift work may be helpful in reducing the cervical cancer burden in the fire service.
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