Regular cervical cancer screening with Pap tests is important because cervical cancer can often develop without any warning signs or symptoms. The goal is to catch and treat precancerous changes (dysplasia) early before cancer develops or before it spreads.
Remember, cervical cancer can be prevented!
Speak to your primary health-care provider today about cervical cancer screening!
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to check the cells on your cervix for early abnormal cell changes. A Pap test screens for these unhealthy or abnormal cells. This test is normally performed by a physician, nurse practitioner or trained nurse.
No screening test is 100% accurate. Sometimes, further testing with additional Pap tests, HPV testing, or colposcopy may be recommended.
Remember, cervical cancer can be prevented!
Regular cervical cancer screening with Pap tests is recommended for women aged 21-69 who have ever had sex (such as oral sex, touching of genitals, intercourse, etc) with a partner of either gender:
- Even if you no longer have periods or
- Even if you had the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine.
Women with warning signs of cervical cancer and those who have a personal history of cervical cancer should talk with their primary health-care provider (doctor or nurse) about the most appropriate screening for them. Warning signs of cervical cancer warranting a visit with your primary health-care provider include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (i.e.: between periods or after sexual intercourse)
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Clear watery discharge from the vagina
- Increased amount of discharge from the vagina
- Foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
Research shows that women aged 21 to 69 who have ever been sexually active benefit the most from screening for cervical cancer. In order to offer this crucial screening program to the people of New Brunswick, the Department of Health has provided the Cervical Cancer Prevention & Screening Program with the names and addresses of people between the ages of 21 and 69 from existing information sources.
Almost every test or procedure has benefits and risks. It’s important to be aware of them so that you can make an informed decision that’s right for you. No screening test is 100% accurate, but the scientific evidence tells us that having regular Pap tests decreases the death rate from cervical cancer in women.
- Early detection of precancerous cervical changes: Cervical cancer develops from precancerous cervical changes. Screening helps identify these changes early so they can be treated or watched, preventing cervical cancer from developing.
- Better survival rates: The Pap test can help detect (find) early stage cervical cancer. In most cases, the earlier a cancer is detected, the better your chance of survival.
- Better quality of life: Early detection may also mean less treatment and less time spent recovering.
- Women who are not screened or not screened regularly have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
- False-positive results: This happens when test results suggest cervical abnormalities such as precancerous cervical changes even though cancer is not present. False positives can cause anxiety, stress and possibly painful and unnecessary tests to rule out pre-cancer or cancer (that is, to make sure you don’t have cancer when the screening test has suggested you might).
- False-negative results: This happens when cervical cell abnormalities are not detected by the test even though they are present. False-negative results can cause you or your doctor to be unaware of cervical abnormalities that could lead to cancer or to ignore symptoms that suggest the presence of cancer, causing a delay in diagnosis and treatment.
- Unnecessary follow-up procedures or treatment: Some women with cervical abnormalities may have follow-up procedures or treatment for a condition that may never have developed into cancer. Cervical abnormalities in many young women often go away on their own without treatment (if they are the low-risk kind). Follow-up procedures or treatment (for example, removal of lesions) may result in complications or affect reproductive health
*Canadian Cancer Society website (2013)
A Pap test is normally performed by a physician, nurse practitioner or trained nurse.
If you do not have a family physician or nurse practitioner, most communities in New Brunswick have clinics where healthcare professionals trained to collect Pap tests offer this service.