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Cancer Screening & Prevention
Cervical Cancer Screening

Overview of Cervical Cancer Screening

  • Each week, 11 Ontario women will develop cancer of the cervix and 3 will die from it.
  • Cervical cancer takes a long time to develop and has no early symptoms or warning signs.
  • Any woman ages 21 to 69 who have ever been sexually active should have regular Pap tests.
  • Cervical cancer is 90% preventable through regular Pap testing!


What Causes Cervical Cancer?

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer.
  • Human Papillomavirus is a common virus that can be spread through all types of sexual contact.
  • Most people never have symptoms and don’t know that they have an HPV infection.
  • HPV vaccine provides protection against four types of HPV.

What is Cancer Screening?

  • Cancer screening is testing that looks for cancer. Screening helps doctors find cancer early when it is easier to treat or cure. Cancer screening should be done when you are healthy and have no symptoms.

What is cervical screening?

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Pap Tests
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  • Cervical cancer screening, called a Pap test, is an easy way to find out if you have a healthy cervix or if there are early cell changes that may develop into cancer.
  • Where is my cervix?
  • During a Pap test, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and sent to a lab to be examined for any abnormal changes that can be treated before cancer might develop.
  • The Pap test is the best way to help prevent cancer of the cervix.
  • Pap Test Pamphlet (PDF)

Do I Need a Pap Test?

  • Women ages 21 to 69 who are or have ever been sexually active should have regular Pap tests.
  • Sexual activity includes intercourse, as well as digital or oral sexual activity involving the genital area with a partner of either gender.
  • You should stop having Pap tests at age 70 if you have had 3 – 4 negative Pap tests in the previous ten years.
  • You should not start having Pap tests until age 21, even if you are sexually active.
  • Pap testing should not be done until you are sexually active.
  • If you have had a hysterectomy you should talk to your health care provider.

Preparing for Your Pap Test?

  • Go for your Pap test when you are not on your period.
  • Do not put foams or other medicines in your vagina for 2 days (48 hours) before your Pap test.

How Often Do I Need to Have a Pap Test?

  • Pap tests should be done every 3 years.

Report to your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina.
  • Spotting or bleeding other than during your period.
  • Bleeding or pain during sex.

Where Can I Have a Pap Test?

You can get a Pap test at:

What Can I Do to Decrease My Risk of Cancer? 

Risk factors like being overweight, not being physically active, smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke have been linked to cancer. 

Reduce your risk by being screened and:


For more information call Durham Health Connection Line
905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729