Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program is encouraging women to follow updated cervical cancer screening guidelines and to be tested for the preventable form of cancer.
The updated Provincial screening guidelines recommend starting Pap tests at age 21 and repeating them every three years until age 70 for all women who are or ever have been sexually active.
“Screening is the only way to detect changes that might lead to cancer, says Dr. Lisa Del Giudice, Primary Care Lead, Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program. “It’s one of the best ways to save lives.”
Changes to the cervix are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of infection that is passed from person to person through skin-to-skin 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. In other instances, HPV infections do not go away and unhealthy cell changes can lead to cancer of the cervix.
Almost 60% of cervical cancers are diagnosed in women who have not been screened at all or have not been screened regularly. Recent data show 72 percent of Ontario women aged 20 to 69 were screened for cervical cancer.
In the past 30 years, incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer in Ontario have declined by more than 60 percent in all age groups. This decline is related to widespread cervical cancer screening and advances in treatment.
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.
Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) – an Ontario government agency that drives quality and continuous improvement in disease prevention and screening – manages the Ontario Cervical Screening Program (OSCP), an organized, population-based screening program that ensures women have access to a comprehensive, coordinated program that supports high-quality cervical screening.
The program’s goal is to reduce the number of people who develop and die from cervical cancer by increasing the number of women who have regular screening.
Women who wish to learn more about cervical cancer screening are encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider and visit www.ontario.ca/screenforlife.