A Simple Pap Test Can Help Prevent Cervical Cancer
This National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, taking place from October 17 to 21, The South West Regional Cancer Program in partnership with Cancer Care Ontario is urging women to get screened for cervical cancer every three years. In 2015, approximately 640 women in Ontario were diagnosed with cervical cancer and an estimated 150 died from the disease. However, cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular screening, appropriate and timely follow-up if results are abnormal, and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization.
"Any woman who is, or ever has been, sexually active is at risk for cervical cancer," says Dr. Joan Murphy, Clinical Lead, Ontario Cervical Screening Program, Cancer Care Ontario. "Cervical cancer is typically slow to develop, so screening every three years on a regular basis has been shown to be highly effective in detecting cervical abnormalities and preventing cancer."
The Ontario Cervical Screening Program (OCSP) recommends that women aged 21 to 69 should get screened for cervical cancer every three years if they are or have ever been sexually active. Unlike most cancers, cervical cancer is more common in younger women, with its incidence rate peaking for women aged 35 to 39. However, the risk of developing the disease continues for women in older age groups, particularly for women who do not regularly get screened.
Because the early changes that lead to cervical cancer cause no symptoms, a Pap test is the best way to detect abnormal cervical cells. Other health issues, such as other cancers in the reproductive organs and sexually transmitted infections, are not detected through Pap testing.
"I feel very fortunate to have caught my cervical cancer in its early stages through screening," says cervical cancer survivor and Canadian Cancer Society volunteer Linda Wu. "Even though life gets busy, it’s worth taking the time to make sure you’re up-to-date with your Pap tests. It could save your life. It certainly saved mine!"
Since 2013, Cancer Care Ontario has sent letters to most Ontario women to remind them to get screened for cervical cancer. According to an Ontario study published in the July 2016 edition of the journal of Preventive Medicine, women who were mailed invitations to be screened were at least 1.7 times more likely to have a Pap test than those who did not receive an invitation.
To book your Pap test, speak to your healthcare provider, visit www.cancercare.on.ca/paptest or the Federation of Medical Women of Canada to find a Pap test clinic being offered in your community during Cervical Cancer Awareness Week.