Cancer Care Nova Scotia announced updated guidelines for cervical cancer screening today, Nov. 27, following a review by Nova Scotia experts of new recommendations released earlier this year from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care.
“Our updated guidelines reflect increased knowledge of how cervical cancer develops, and a greater understanding of the benefits and potential harms of screening,” said Dr. Robert Grimshaw, medical director, Cancer Care Nova Scotia Cervical Cancer Prevention Program. “The updated guidelines include changes in the age to begin having Pap tests, and the frequency of screening needed based on age and a woman’s cervical screening history.”
The Cervical Cancer Prevention Program’s revised guidelines recommend:
— Women 20 years old and younger do not need a regular Pap test
— Women should start having regular Pap tests at age 21 or within three years of first vaginal sexual activity, whichever comes last. Once a person begins having Pap tests, they should continue to have them every three years.
— Women between 25 and 69 years old should have a Pap test every three years.
— Women older than 70 who have had three normal Pap tests in a row, no longer need to be screened. Those older than 70 who have not had three normal Pap tests in a row should continue having Pap tests every three years until they do.
Dr. Grimshaw said it is likely that the guidelines for cervical cancer screening will change again when more HPV vaccination data from the school-based immunization program, introduced in 2007, has been collected and analyzed.
“Regular Pap tests can prevent up to 90 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer,” said Dr. Grimshaw. “This has not changed. Regular Pap tests are still important in our fight against cervical cancer, but we now have a better understanding of who needs a Pap test and how often. Women should talk with their family doctor or health care provider about what these revised guidelines mean for them. Any woman wanting a copy of her Pap test history may call us at 1-866-599-2267.”
Representatives from Doctors Nova Scotia and district health authorities worked with the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program’s Management Committee to develop the updated guidelines. For more information, visit www.cancercare.ns.ca/cervicalcancerprevention .
Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Program is dedicated to reducing the incidence of cervical cancer in Nova Scotia. Strategies are aimed at working closely with family doctors and other primary-care providers to provide them with the tools and information to educate their patients about the importance of regular Pap tests, and to encourage those patients to have a regular Pap tests in accordance with the guidelines.
Cancer Care Nova Scotia, a program of the Department of Health and Wellness, was created in 1998 to facilitate quality cancer prevention and care for all Nova Scotians. It supports health professionals in providing patients with high quality care.