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HOW COMMON IS IT?
Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in Canada. In 2002, 560 Ontario women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 160 women died from the disease. Cervical cancer is mostly preventable by having a regular Pap test.
The cervix is the lower portion of a woman’s womb or uterus and plays an important role during childbirth. Early changes in the cervix can happen without pain or symptoms. If these changes are not found and treated, they can develop into cancer.
Regular pap tests are an excellent way to find cervical cancer at an early stage when it can be treated successfully. Pap tests are important because they can find two kinds of unusual or abnormal cells:
If the abnormal cells look like they may become cancer cells, they are easily treated. If the abnormal cells are cancer cells but they have not yet spread, they can be removed. In the early stages, cervical cancer is 90% curable. There has been a big drop in the incidence of cervical cancer mostly because of regular Pap testing. That is why a Pap test can save your life.
The Ontario Cervical Screening Guidelines recommend that you should have a Pap test:
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER
Cervical cancer can develop over a long time without causing any signs or symptoms. Changes to the cervix are often discovered during a routine Pap screening test.
Having the following signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer. They could be caused by other problems so see your doctor to be sure.
WHAT CAUSES CERVICAL CANCER
There is no single cause of cervical cancer, but some factors appear to increase the risk of developing it. A risk factor means anything that can increase your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors, it does not necessarily mean that you will get the disease.
It is important to focus on the risk factors that you can change (such as smoking) rather than those that you cannot change (such as family history). Knowing the risk factors can convince you to get a Pap test for early detection or prevention of cervical cancer.
Some women develop cervical cancer without any of these risk factors.
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF!
PREVENT CERVICAL CANCER: GET A PAP TEST
A Pap test is one of the many tests that your doctor or health care provider will do to detect unhealthy cells in your cervix. During a Pap test, a small sample of cells are removed from your cervix and are sent to the laboratory to be looked under a microscope.
The laboratory needs a clean sample of cells to test.
So, the following are basic instructions before having a Pap test:
WHY DO I NEED TO GET A PAP TEST DONE?
Pap tests can save your life. Cervical cancer can kill you.
The Pap test has been around for 50 years yet many women with cervical cancer have never had one. Every week about 11 women in Ontario will get cancer of the cervix and 3 women will die from it.
Having a Pap test regularly will identify abnormal cells long before they become cancerous. Even if cervical cancer is discovered in the early stages, it can be treated very successfully.
The Pap test takes only a few minutes. You may feel nervous or uncomfortable but as you make it part of your regular medical checkup you will get accustomed to it.
Once you have become sexually active, have a Pap test every year. After three normal Pap tests, your doctor or health care provider may suggest that you have a regular physical exam and a Pap test every 2 years until you are 70 years old. If you have had a hysterectomy or have gone through menopause, you may still need a regular Pap test, so check with your doctor.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS TO PREVENT CANCER
Make a promise to yourself. Have a regular Pap Test. A Pap Test can prevent cancer of the cervix.
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For more information locally, call the Grey Bruce Health Unit at (519) 376-9420.
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