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Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical Cancer Screening

What is cervical cancer screening?
A Pap test is the test used to screen for cervical cancer in Ontario.

What is a Pap test?
A Pap test is a simple screening test that can help prevent cervical cancer. A Pap test looks for abnormal cell changes of the cervix. The test will not detect other cancers in the reproductive organs or look for other diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV.

A Pap test is done in a doctor or nurse practitioner's office.

An instrument, called a speculum, is gently inserted in your vagina so your cervix can be seen. Cells are taken from the cervix and are sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope.

Some women may find the Pap test uncomfortable or embarrassing but it only takes a few minutes and could save your life.

Are Pap tests effective?
Yes, incidence and deaths for cervical cancer have declined more than 60 per cent in Ontario over the past 30 years due to widespread screening with the Pap test. But, they aren't perfect. Sometimes they can miss abnormal cells. Be sure to go for regular Pap test screening. This decreases the chance of missing important changes.. If you have unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, see your doctor or nurse practitioner, even if your last Pap test was normal.

Where do I go for a Pap test?
Make an appointment with one of your healthcare providers.
The North Western Health Unit also does them; please contact them at 807-223-8777 

How do I get ready for a Pap test?

  • Try to make the appointment for a day when you do not have your period.

  • Don't have sex or use tampons, foams or medicines in your vagina for 48 hours before the test.

  • If these can't be avoided, still go for your test.

What happens after the Pap test?
Most often, your Pap test result will be normal.  If your result is abnormal, it does not mean you have cervical cancer.

Your health care provider will contact you if you have an abnormal test result. If your result is abnormal, it doesn't mean you have cervical cancer. But you will need to talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about next steps – like following up with another Pap test in a few months. You may also need to see a specialist for more tests.

Why do women need Pap tests?
Cervical cancer is a cancer that can often be prevented so Pap tests are important. The cells on the cervix are constantly changing and growing. Sometimes, these cells become abnormal. A Pap test looks for these abnormal cells. Often, abnormal cells naturally return to normal. But if they don't, they need to be found and, if necessary, treated. Otherwise, slowly over a number of years, they may become cervical cancer.


(Cancer Care Ontario 2015)

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