Alberta Cancer Foundation

Regular Pap tests a proactive step for women

Though Pap tests may not be that complicated or lengthy, the discomfort factor (or other reasons) may prevent women from getting their regular screening. Yet, it’s an important step to take toward catching abnormal cells early, in the hopes of preventing them from turning into cervical cancer.

Here are five reasons not to put off that Pap, and encourage the ladies in your life to do the same:

1.  Cervical cancer symptoms are similar to other conditions.
Symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharges, are vague. And, many women mistake these symptoms for other common conditions. So, your best chance to find and treat cervical cancer as early as possible is having regular Pap tests.

2. If you are sexually active, you need a Pap.
The more sexually active you and your partner(s) are, the higher your chances of getting the human papillomavirus (also called HPV). This virus causes most cervical cancer cases. And, most sexually active women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives. Luckily, today’s screening exams are even better at detecting abnormal cells.

3. Just because you have had the HPV vaccine, does not mean you can skip the Pap.
The HPV vaccine protects women from some types of cervical cancer. But, getting this vaccine doesn’t mean you can stop regular Pap tests. Not only does it not protect you from all types of HPV, but it also does nothing to protect from other sexually-transmitted infections.

4. It’s free.
Your Pap test is covered under the Alberta Heath Care Insurance Plan.

5. You may need the test longer than you might think.
While most women age 65 or older do not need Pap tests, you may if you’ve had treatment for a pre-cancer or cancer in the past 20 years. You also need to continue getting a Pap test if you’ve had a hysterectomy to treat pre-cancer or cancer cells in the past 20 years.

If you are 65 or older and not sexually active, you don’t need a Pap test anymore if you’ve had:

  • Three or more normal Pap tests in a row or one negative Pap and HPV test
  • No abnormal Pap tests in the past 10 years or more
  • No treatment for an abnormal Pap test in the past 20 years

Source: MD Anderson Cancer Center