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Pap Testing

As a teenager on the brink of womanhood, having my mother drag me to Pap smear appointments was a nightmare. I thought the doctor should at least provide me with a paper bag to put over my head to preserve my dignity.

My pap tests always came back normal, rendering me frustrated at the fact that I had to continue getting them done. Of course, I didn’t recognize that in this case, no news was good news.

A Pap test or Pap smear (also known as a Papanicolaou test or smear) is used to determine whether there are abnormal and/or cancer-causing cells in the cervix. Cervical cancer is a disease in which the cells of the cervix become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably, forming tumours. In Canada, a Pap test is the most effective and recommended screening test for cervical cancer.

Most provincial and territorial guidelines recommend that women 21 years of age and older who are sexually active should have a Pap test at least every three years.

The best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer is to protect yourself from HPV (human papilloma virus). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer.

There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting HPV:

Use a condom. Condoms help reduce the risk of getting HPV. Men who use condoms are less likely to be infected and less likely to infect their partners. (Please remember that condoms do not prevent all infections).

Limit your use of spermicidal gels. Frequent use of spermicidal gels containing nonoxynol-9 may cause irritation and small tears of the genital tissue, allowing for easier transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Don’t smoke. The risk of developing cervical cancer increases with the length of time a woman smokes and the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

In order to ensure your next Pap test is as accurate as possible:

Book your appointment for the 5th or 6th day following the end of your menstrual period. Abstain from sexual intercourse at least 24 hours prior to your Pap test.

Refrain from using vaginal douches, vaginal sprays/powders, or contraceptive creams for at least 24 hours prior to your Pap test.

Empty your bladder before your Pap test.

Pap tests do not hurt, but they can be unpleasant. The test lasts just a few minutes and can go a long way in catching cervical changes before they develop into cancer.

To learn more about Pap testing or to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, drop into your nearest IHC location or give us a call!


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