Pap testing is used to screen for the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix, which could indicate, or become, cervical cancer. This is an important screening tool for two main reasons. First, abnormal cells can be treated before they develop into cervical cancer. Second, the chance of survival from cervical cancer is more than 85%, if caught early. Often, cervical cancer does not present with symptoms, which means it could progress without a person realizing. Symptoms that warrant evaluation for cervical cancer are as follows: abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain.
Who is Eligible for a Pap Test in BC?
In British Columbia, the current recommendations are: women, and transgender individuals with a cervix, ages 25-69 should complete a pap test every 3 years. Naturopathic doctors are able to complete this test, as well as medical doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and midwives. If there are abnormal cells present, the healthcare provider who completed the test will contact you for appropriate follow-up.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
A pap test will be completed in a doctor’s office or medical clinic, and does not take much time. The test involves inserting a speculum inside of your vagina, and then collecting cells from your cervix with a small spatula. You may feel mild discomfort, but it should not feel painful. The collected cells are sent to a laboratory with BC Cancer, and the results will be available within a few weeks.