What is a Pap test?
A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is a routine screening test performed during a regular health check-up. The test examines the cells of the cervix to detect any abnormal changes that may lead to cervical cancer. It does not screen for ovarian cancer.
Why do I need a Pap test?
Regular Pap tests are crucial in preventing cervical cancer. In the past 30 years, the incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer have decreased by over 60% due to screening using Pap tests. However, every week, around 10 Ontario women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and three women die from it. Women who have not undergone Pap testing are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Early detection and treatment can prevent most cervical cancers.
How often should I have a Pap test?
According to the current Ontario Screening Guidelines, women should undergo a Pap test every three years. It is essential to continue screening even after menopause and for women who no longer have sexual intercourse. Women over 70 can stop screening if they have had at least three normal tests in the past 10 years. Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may be exempt from Pap testing, but they should discuss this with their doctor.
Remember that the risk of cervical cancer increases with age, so it is crucial to have regular Pap tests as recommended by your healthcare provider.