Next week is Pap Awareness Week in BC. Do you know what that means…?
- Wed Oct. 23 from 4:30pm to 7:45pm
- Thurs Oct. 24 from 9:00am to 3:45pm.
A Pap test can prevent cervical cancer, and is the only way to detect abnormal cells in the cervix. By having regular Pap tests you can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by 70%.
Wait… but what is a Pap test?
A Pap test (or Pap smear) is a routine screening procedure performed by a doctor or nurse. It is a sample of cells collected from the cervix that are spread onto a slide and sent to the Cervical Cancer Screening Laboratory in Vancouver. It’s then examined for signs of abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are found, physicians can initiate early treatment to stop cervical cancer from developing. The Pap test may also detect infections and abnormalities in the endocervix and endometrium.
So who needs Pap tests?
The answer to that question is relatively simple: anyone with a cervix. Regular Pap tests should begin for all women at age 21 or approximately three years after first sexual activity or sexual contact, whichever occurs first. Regular pap tests should be repeated once a year until there are three consecutive negative results, then continue every two years.
It’s important to note that Pap tests are important even if you are not sexually active, because HPV (Human Papillomavirus) can be transmitted via skin-to-skin genital contact, not just through penetrative sexual intercourse.
Even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you should still get regular Pap tests, as the vaccine does not cover all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. You should ask your doctor about Pap tests if you’ve ever had a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).
Keep in mind that only pap tests and appropriate STI testing will be offered for drop-in appointments; for other health concerns another appointment should be scheduled.
Additional STI testing may include:
- Cervical cultures for gonorrhea and Chlamydia
- Blood tests (optional) for HIV and syphilis
To learn more about Pap tests, visit the BC Cancer Agency website.