New guidelines for cervical cancer testing in Canada
Cancer Care Ontario, a provincial government agency, has recommended that women in Ontario aged 21 and over should have a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer or other abnormalities every three years until the age of 70.
The new guidelines released on Tuesday recommend retesting for women every three years even if they have had no cervical issues for two years.
In contrast to a a national report by Health Canada, Cancer Care Ontario’s new guidelines suggest that women begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21 instead of 18.
Dr. Linda Rabeneck of Cancer Care Ontario argues that a Pap test every three years starting at 21 will detect any changes in cervix that might lead to cancer.
She said that ”new research shows that screening women under age 21, regardless of the age they first became sexually active, doesn’t actually reduce their risk for cervical cancer”.
Pre-malignant changes occur over years which is why it is believed that regular screening over a three year period would be most effective and reduce false positive results sometimes associated with frequent testing.
It is estimated that in 2012 1,350 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 390 women are expected to die from the disease.
Worldwide cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women with an estimated 520,000 new cases and 274, 000 deaths in 200.
The continuing prime cause of cervical cancer remains the human papilloma virus or HPV, which is passed from person to person through sexual contact.
HPV is common in men and women but most HPV infections actually clear up on their own.
In some cases, however, HPV can lead to cervical cancer.