What is it?
A PAP test is a screening procedure that tests for cervical cancer in women. It involves the collection of cells from the women’s cervix using a swab that can then be tested. Early detection of abnormal cells, is key to preventing the development of cervical cancer.
When do I get one?
If you’re a sexually active female, you should get your first PAP by the age of 21 and every 3 years after that. Sexual activity includes penetration by a finger, a penis or receiving oral sex. If you haven’t started being sexually active at this time, you can wait until you are to begin your regular screenings.
Women can discontinue screening at age 70 if their 3 previous results were negative.
What do my results mean?
Before cervical cancer develops, the cells of the cervix become abnormal. This change is referred to as dysplasia of the cervix. This is a pre-cancerous condition and does not mean you will develop cancer, in fact most women at this stage do not. If abnormal cells are found, you are referred to a specialist for further investigation and monitoring. This can be done by a colposcopist, gyne-oncologist or a gynecologist.
Ref: Ontario Cervical Screening Guidelines