Pap Screening and Cervical Cancer Prevention
Regular screening to detect abnormal changes in the cells of your cervix at an early stage can help prevent cervical cancer or improve your chance for a complete recovery.
How do I get screened for cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer screening is done by a Pap test. Having a regular Pap test is the best way you can protect yourself from cervical cancer. There are no symptoms to let you know a Pap test is needed.
You can begin the screening process by:
- Calling your family physician or nurse practitioner to set up an appointment; or
- Submitting an online Appointment Request Form to the provincial Cervical Cancer Screening Service; or
- Calling 1-888-561-2233 to book an appointment for a Pap test at a Cervical Cancer Screening Clinic in your community.
What is a Pap test?
A Pap test is a procedure that removes a small sample of cells from the cervix. These cells are examined under a microscope and monitored for any abnormal changes. Pap tests make sure these changes are not missed and cervical cancer does not develop. Pap testing is done by a family physician, a nurse practitioner, or a registered nurse.
When should I have a Pap test?
The current Pap screening guidelines recommend women should have a Pap test if they:
- are 25-65 years of age and have been sexually active (including intercourse, as well as oral or touch with a partner’s genital area, male or female);
- are over 65 years of age and have not had three negative tests in the last 10 years.
New evidence demonstrates that abnormal cervical cells in young women are more often able to go away on their own without treatment or follow-up procedures, and that some procedures, when performed at a young age, could cause potential harm. If you are of higher risk or not sure if you should wait until age 25, consult with your health care provider.
When can I stop having Pap tests?
You do not need to have regular Pap tests performed if you:
- have never been sexually active;
- have had your cervix removed during hysterectomy; or
- are over 65 years of age and have had three negative tests in the last 10 years.
How often should I be tested?
In general, women of average risk should have a regular Pap test every three years.
If you have ever been treated for abnormal cells (cervical dysplasia) or cancer of the cervix, you should be screened every year.
If you have a weakened immune system, you should be screened every year. You may have a weakened immune system if you are:
- a transplant recipient; or
- being treated with chemotherapy or taking long-term corticosteroids; or
- HIV/AIDS positive.
What if I had a hysterectomy?
If you’ve had a hysterectomy it’s important to know if you still have your cervix or if it was removed. This will help determine if further Pap tests are required. It is recommended you consult with your health care provider to decide which screening is right for you, based on your history.
If you have had a sub-total hysterectomy (cervix remains), you should continue to have a regular Pap test every three years.
If you have had a total hysterectomy (cervix removed) and have not been treated for cervical dysplasia or cancer of the cervix, you do not need to continue to have regular Pap tests.
If you have had a total hysterectomy (cervix removed) and have had treatment for cervical dysplasia or cancer of the cervix, you should be screened every year.
What if I had the HPV Vaccine?
It is recommended that all women who are or were sexually active, be screened regularly whether they have had the HPV vaccine or not.
Should I have a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test?
Testing for HPV is a similar procedure to the Pap test. If you are a woman over the age of 30, you may consider this type of test; however, it would be at your own cost. We recommend that you consult with your health care provider regarding this test.
How do I contact the provincial Cervical Cancer Screening Service?
To book an appointment at one of the cervical cancer screening clinics:
Telephone: (902) 368-5901
Fax: (902) 370-5870