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Pap screening

The Pap test is an important screening test that looks for changes in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is serious, but it usually develops slowly. If found and treated early, the chance of curing cervical cancer is very high. Cervical cancer is usually caused by a few types of Human Papillomavrus (HPV). The HPV strains that cause bumpy genital warts that you can see do not cause cervical cancer.

A Pap test is often done at the same time as sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Cells from the cervix are spread on a glass slide and sent to the Cervical Cancer Screening Laboratory (CCSL) in Vancouver. It generally takes four to six weeks for the results to come back to your health care provider.

The BC Cancer Agency recommends that cervical cancer screening should begin at age 21 or about three years after the first time that you have sexual intercourse. In BC, a Pap test is done once a year for the first three years, then every two years if the results have been normal. Sometimes the Pap test is not included when people are tested for STIs. Ask your health care provider what tests are being done when you have a pelvic exam.

Resources

BC Cancer Agency – Cervical cancer screening program
Canadian Cancer Society – Pap test information
Canadian Cancer Society – Screening for cervical cancer
Canadian Women’s Health Network – Pap test information
Paptestinfo.ca – Pap test resources

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Pap, cancer, HPV
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