Updated on: Dec 07, 2023

    Cervical Cancer Summary

  • Any person with a uterus from the age of 25 to 70 should see a clinician for testing every 3 years. 

  • If you're at higher risk (for different medical reasons), you should be tested more often

  • Regular check-ups ensure you do not develop cervical cancer

  • Getting tested is FREE under OHIP

  • There is a vaccine to help stop you from getting Cervical Cancer

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Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular screening, appropriate and timely follow-up of abnormal Pap test results and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization.

Screening is testing done on people who are at risk of getting cancer, but who have no symptoms and generally feel fine. The cervix is a body part that connects the uterus (womb) to the vagina (genital opening). Cervical cancer is cancer in the cervix. The goal of cervical screening is to find cell changes in the cervix before they become cancer.

Cervical cancer deaths are more frequent in areas of the world where cervical screening is not available. The dramatic decline since the 1980s in the rate at which Ontario women develop and die from cervical cancer is almost entirely due to screening.

A Pap test is a screening test that can detect cell changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer before people feel any symptoms. It is important that these cell changes are found and, if necessary, treated before they can cause cervical cancer.

Currently, the Ontario Cervical Screening Program recommends that anyone with a cervix (women, transmasculine and non-binary people) who is or ever has been sexually active have a Pap test every 3 years starting at age 25.

You can stop regular screening with Pap tests at the age of 70 if you have had 3 or more normal tests in the previous 10 years.

Eligible people need to get cervical screening even if they:

  • feel healthy and have no symptoms
  • are no longer sexually active
  • have only had 1 sexual partner
  • are in a same-sex relationship
  • have been through menopause
  • have no family history of cervical cancer
  • have received the HPV vaccine
  • People who have had a hysterectomy should talk to their doctor or nurse practitioner to see if they need to continue cervical screening.

The Pap test (also known as the Pap smear) is the most common way to find cell changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer.

A Pap test looks for abnormal cells in the cervix. Cervical cells may become abnormal when someone has a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Abnormal cells often return to normal on their own but if they do not, they need to be found and, if necessary, treated. Otherwise, the abnormal cells caused by HPV infection may cause cervical cancer if they stay in someone’s cervix for many years.

A Pap test does not test for other cancers in the reproductive organs, such as ovarian cancer, or for sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or HIV.

A Pap test is done by a doctor, nurse practitioner, registered nurse (RN) or midwife.

A Pap test only takes a few minutes. For a Pap test, the provider will open a patient’s vagina (genital opening) using a medical tool called a speculum to see their cervix. The provider will use a soft brush to take cells from the surface of the patient’s cervix so the lab can examine the cells under a microscope. Some people may find it uncomfortable or embarrassing but it is important that any cell changes are found and, if necessary, treated before they can cause cervical cancer.

The lab sends the test results to the provider who did the test.

The provider who did the test will then tell the patient the next steps for follow-up.

Where to get screened!

Make an appointment with your doctor or nurse practitioner!

If you do not have a doctor or nurse practitioner, you can see the map below for your nearest clinic to have it completed or find a screening test centre by calling Health811 at 811 (TTY: 1.866.797.0007).

The SHORE Centre can help you have this screening test done.

Do you have a physical disability that makes screening difficult?

The Mobility Clinic offers cervical (and breast) cancer screening for people with physical disabilities or accessibility issues.

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