New guidelines for Pap test screening

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Regular Pap tests prevent approximately 90 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer.

 This year alone, it is estimated that 45 Nova Scotians will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and another 20 women will die of the disease. In an effort to reduce this number in the future, doctors in Nova Scotia are encouraging all women to become educated on cervical cancer prevention.

Pap tests are the only way to detect any changes in the cells of your cervix which might develop into cancer. Having a Pap test regularly will ensure that changes to the cells of your cervix – which may take years to develop – are not missed and cancer doesn't develop.

Women who are sexually active should begin having Pap tests at age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active. Women who have never been sexually active do not need Pap tests. Once women begin having Pap tests, they should have a Pap test every three years until age 69. Even if you are no longer sexually active or have gone through menopause, it is important to continue to be screened. Women over the age of 70 who have had three normal Pap test in a row no longer need to be screened. Those over the age of 70 who have not had three normal Pap tests in a row should continue having Pap tests every three years until they do.

Doctors encourage women in the province to become educated on cervical cancer and to talk to your doctor about getting regular Pap tests. A Pap test is the only way to screen for cervical cancer, but your doctor might also take this opportunity to perform general health screening. It’s important that you discuss with your doctor what regular screening means for you.

For more information on Pap tests and cervical cancer, visit:

Mike Fleming, BSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP

Doctors Nova Scotia

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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