CancerCare Manitoba
News Item

January 7, 2013

New Screening Guidelines Mean Changes in Pap Test Frequency for Manitoba women

The value of regular cervical cancer screening is immense, however it is important to have Pap tests at the right interval. Research now shows that having Pap tests too often offers little benefit and exposes women to harms and anxieties.

"Organized Pap testing has resulted in declines of up to 80% in deaths due to cervical cancer," said Kim Templeton, Manager, CervixCheck. "It is important to get screened regularly because cervical cancer in its early or precancerous stages often has no symptoms."

Following the recent release of new national recommendations for cervical cancer screening, CervixCheck is working with healthcare providers to educate Manitoba women about the program's updated guidelines. Significant changes include routine screening taking place every three years rather than every two and to start screening at age 21 for women who have been sexually active.

"By increasing the time between tests and by starting screening later, we achieve the same benefit but are able to reduce potential harms from overtesting. It's a win-win for women," said Dr. Bob Lotocki, Head and Program Director of the Division of Gynecology Oncology at the University of Manitoba and Medical Lead, CervixCheck, adding CervixCheck will be phasing in reminder letters to women who are overdue for a Pap test.

To help healthcare providers adjust to the changes, CervixCheck is distributing its new guidelines this month, hosting a spring webinar and providing a resource to share with women coming to their clinics. Additionally, providers are being encouraged to discuss the benefits and harms of screening, as well as the possibility of delaying the start of screening.

"By starting the conversation, healthcare providers can give women the information they need to make informed decisions that best suit them," said Templeton.

Each year about 50 Manitoba women are diagnosed with the disease. According to CervixCheck's data, up to 30% of Manit0ba women get tested too frequently and over 30% don't get tested enough.

"To really make a difference in reducing the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer, we need to reach the 30% who are underscreened as well as those not being screened, rather than screening women earlier or more often," said Lotocki.

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