Prevention & Screening
Prevention and Screening
Pap Test Q & A
Regular Pap tests effective in preventing cervical cancer

Regular Pap tests prevent approximately 95 per cent of all cervical cancers. However, statistics indicate that one Nova Scotian woman each week is diagnosed with cervical cancer. And, of the approximately 60 women in the province who are diagnosed annually, one-half will die. The need for education and awareness around the importance of Pap tests in preventing cervical cancer is clear. 

View our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Pap Test.          

Where can you go for a Pap test?
A Pap test can be done in your doctor's office, or at a health clinic in your community.  Click here for a list of Well Women's Clinics in your area.

How do you get ready for a Pap test?
To obtain a good Pap smear, your vagina and uterus should be in their normal, natural state. Before going for your test, it is best if you:

  • Have not douched or used birth control creams or jellies for 48 hours
  • Have not had sex for 24 hours
  • Are not having your period
  • If you are able to follow this advice, the lab will receive a better cell sample.

How common is cancer of the cervix?
According to the 2013 Canadian Cancer Statistics, in 2013 it is estimated that 1450 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in Canada and 45 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in Nova Scotia.

How is a Pap test done?
When you go for a Pap test, you will be asked to lie down on an examining table and to slide your bottom down. Your feet are put in foot rests and you will be asked to relax and to let your knees fall to the side.

An instrument, called a speculum, is gently placed in your vagina. The speculum opens up your vagina, just a bit, so your cervix can be seen more clearly. Remember, the more you are able to relax during your test, the more comfortable it will be for you. Cells are gently taken from your cervix using a tiny brush and a small stick. These cells are then sent to the lab on a glass slide.

What causes cancer of the cervix?
We know that cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is usually transmitted by sexual contact. Over 75% of women will be exposed to HPV, however only a small fraction will develop pre-cancer (cervical dysplasia). Regular Pap testing can pick up pre-cancerous changes that can be treated before becoming cancer.

The risk of developing cervical cancer can be reduced by:

  • Using a latex condom
  • Choosing not to smoke 
  • Having a regular Pap test 
  • Not having sex at an early age
  • Limiting the number of sexual partners

Protect your health and remember to visit your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular or unusually heavy periods
  • Any spotting or bleeding between periods, after sexual activity, after douching, or after menopause

Find out more about the importance of cervical cancer prevention and screening contact:

  • Your doctor/health care provider 
  • A Well Woman's Clinic in your community
  • A Public Health Nurse 
  • Your pharmacist 
  • The Canadian Cancer Society
  • The Cervical Cancer Prevention Program (CCPP) - tel: 1-888-480-8588 or (902) 473-7438

View the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program resources available for increasing Pap test awareness.

Please let us know if you were unable to find what you were looking for, have suggestions or just want to give us your feedback.  Email the CCPP