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New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines For Ontario Women
Changes to current guidelines for women under 21 and women 21-70 years of age
Posted on 2012/08/14
Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) today announced updated cervical cancer screening (Pap test) guidelines which outline the right age for women to screen and the time interval between tests. In Ontario, cervical cancer screening is now recommended starting at age 21 and every three years until age 70 for all women who are or ever have been sexually active; screening is not recommended for women under the age of 21.

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“Regular screening every three years starting at age 21 can detect changes that might lead to cancer. New research shows that screening women under age 21, regardless of the age they first became sexually active, doesn’t actually reduce their risk for cervical cancer,” says Dr. Linda Rabeneck, Vice President, Prevention and Cancer Control, Cancer Care Ontario.

Changes to the cervix are caused by a type of infection called human papillomavirus (HPV), which is passed from person to person through sexual contact. HPV is very common but most of these infections go away on their own. The majority of sexually active men and women will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime. About 90 percent of HPV infection will clear within two years and won’t result in cervical cancer.

Shannon’s story

Shannon Pethick, 34, from Burlington, Ontario, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010. As a result of her intensive cancer treatment, Shannon went into menopause and lost her ability to have children at the age of 32. Now cancer-free, Shannon is a vocal cervical cancer screening advocate for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“When I think back, having a Pap test could have prevented my cancer and I’d be able to have kids,” says Shannon.

“Women need to talk about this. I know Pap tests are not the most pleasant thing to experience but going through radiation and chemotherapy is far worse. I want to shout it from the rooftops that women need to schedule regular Pap tests with their doctor.”

The Canadian Cancer Society strongly supports the new provincial screening guidelines. “In 2012, it is projected that about 550 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ontario and about 160 women will die from this disease,” says Rowena Pinto, Vice President, Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “Most cervical cancers are diagnosed in women who have not been screened at all or have not been screened regularly.”

“Keeping Ontarians healthy is a key pillar of our Action Plan for Health Care,” says Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “We know that screening saves lives so it’s critical for Ontario women to get screened every three years for cervical cancer.”

It is important to screen up to the age of 70 years as the risk of cervical cancer does not decrease with age however, at the age of 70, women who have had three or more normal test results in the previous 10 years can stop cervical cancer screening.

Women who wish to learn more about cervical cancer screening are encouraged to speak with their doctor or nurse and visit .

Cancer Care Ontario – an Ontario government agency – drives quality and continuous improvement in disease prevention and screening, the delivery of care and the patient experience, for cancer, chronic kidney disease and access to care for key health services. Known for its innovation and results-driven approaches, CCO leads multi-year system planning, contracts for services with hospitals and providers, develops and deploys information systems, establishes guidelines and standards and tracks performance targets to ensure system-wide improvements in cancer, chronic kidney disease and access to care.

Canadian Cancer Society - a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

Media contact:
Cancer Care Ontario
Adam Segal, Senior Public Affairs Advisor
Phone: 1-855-460-2646

To reach the Canadian Cancer Society or Shannon Pethick:
Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division
Katherine Dykstra, Senior Advisor, Communications
Phone: 416-323-7066

Last modified: Thu, Oct 18, 2012
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