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Stepwise strategy to improve Cervical Cancer Screening Adherence (SCAN-CC): automated text messages, phone calls and face-to-face interviews: protocol of a population-based randomised controlled trial

05 Oct 2017


Screening is highly effective for cervical cancer prevention and control. Population-based screening programmes are widely implemented in high-income countries, although adherence is often low. In Portugal, just over half of the women adhere to cervical cancer screening, contributing for greater mortality rates than in other European countries. The most effective adherence raising strategies are based on patient reminders, small/mass media and face-to-face educational programmes, but sequential interventions targeting the general population have seldom been evaluated. The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness of a stepwise approach, with increasing complexity and cost, to improve adherence to organised cervical cancer screening: step 1a—customised text message invitation; step 1b—customised automated phone call invitation; step 2—secretary phone call; step 3—family health professional phone call and face-to-face appointment.


A population-based randomised controlled trial will be implemented in Portuguese urban and rural areas. Women eligible for cervical cancer screening will be randomised (1:1) to intervention and control. In the intervention group, women will be invited for screening through text messages, automated phone calls, manual phone calls and health professional appointments, to be applied sequentially to participants remaining non-adherent after each step. Control will be the standard of care (written letter). The primary outcome is the proportion of women adherent to screening after step 1 or sequences of steps from 1 to 3. The secondary outcomes are: proportion of women screened after each step (1a, 2 and 3); proportion of text messages/phone calls delivered; proportion of women previously screened in a private health institution who change to organised screening. The intervention and control groups will be compared based on intention-to-treat and per-protocol analyses.

Ethics and dissemination

The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Northern Health Region Administration and National Data Protection Committee. Results will be disseminated through communications in scientific meetings and peer-reviewed journals.

Trial number


Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open