November 9, 2005

Keep healthy with regular Pap tests

NEWMARKET–Each week in Ontario, approximately 10 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Of these 10 women diagnosed, one third of them die from this disease.  However, the most surprising fact is that most cervical cancer cases are preventable with a simple, quick and effective screening test.  It is called the Pap test and it can save a woman's life.
A Pap test or a Pap smear is a procedure in which cells collected from a woman's cervix are examined under a microscope.  The test helps detect cell changes early, before they become cancerous and when there are more treatment options available and a better chance of successful treatment. 
Any woman who is or has ever been sexually active needs to have regular Pap tests.  Women whose test results are normal for three consecutive years should continue having a Pap test every two to three years.  Even women passed menopause require a Pap test every two to three years until at least the age of 70.  A woman's risk of developing cancer of the cervix increases as she ages; so it is very important that women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are screened regularly.
Don't wait for a doctor to suggest a Pap test, women are encouraged ask their doctor about their need for this important test.  Women are also reminded that the best time to see their doctor for a test is when they are feeling fine and do not have any symptoms. 
It is quite common for women to report feeling a bit anxious about the test. However, there are many things that can be done to help make the experience more comfortable.  Some women prefer to have a female doctor or nurse practitioner perform the test or have a female nurse or assistant stay in the room.  Finally, women may want to consider bringing a friend or family member with them to help decrease their anxiety level.
Women should talk to their health care provider about how they feel.  For women whose first language is not English, they can bring a friend or family member who can translate for them. 
A Pap test can be a bit uncomfortable, but it only takes a couple of minutes.  And after the appointment, women can be reassured that they have just taken a very important step in safeguarding their health.
If you are a woman, when was the last time you have a Pap test? If it's been more then a few years or if you have never had one, it's time to make an appointment.  It could save your life.
For more information on the Pap test or cervical cancer:
• Talk to your doctor or nurse
• Visit the Ontario Cervical Screening Program Web site at
• Contact a Canadian Cancer Society specialist at 1-888-939-3333
• Call York Region Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5363
This information in this article has been provided by Dr. Verna Mai, Director, Screening Programs, Division of Oncology, Cancer Care Ontario and Ontario Cervical Cancer Screening Program.  It has been adapted and published in partnership with York Region Health Services.
For more information on this or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit
Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
                        905-830-4444 Ext. 4016

Back to top