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A few minutes to prevent cervical cancer
The difference between life and death from cervical cancer could be a regular Pap test.
“The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening. In fact, 90% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented by regular Pap testing,” says Dr. Rob Grimshaw, Medical Director of Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Program
Cervical cancer generally has no signs or symptoms until it is advanced.That is one of the reasons that Pap tests are so critical; cervical cancer generally develops from non-cancerous abnormal cells which, if caught early on a Pap test, can usually be treated successfully.
cervicalpreventionIn Nova Scotia, the impact of regular screening is being felt. As one of the oldest cervical cancer screening programs in the country, Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, in partnership with health providers and women, can take credit for the 54 per cent decrease in the rate of cervical cancer in this province between 1971 and 2004. However, more needs to be done. Nova Scotia still has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the country.
“We could bring this rate way down through the use of regular Pap tests. The importance of this cannot be underestimated,” says Dr. Grimshaw.
He encourages all women in Nova Scotia to have a Regular Pap test, especially women in their 40's and 50’s who are less likely to have regular tests as they age. It would also be helpful, says Dr. Grimshaw, for physicians to remind patients when they are due for a Pap test through some kind of notification system.

Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Program is dedicated to decreasing the incidence of cervical cancer in Nova Scotia. Its efforts are aimed at prevention, early detection and appropriate management of cervical cancer, the ninth most common cancer among Canadian women. The program also focuses on developing, implementing and monitoring guidelines for screening, and quality assurance practices in laboratories.
The main cause of cervical cancer is believed to be persistent infection of the cervix with a high-risk form of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact. HPV is common among both women and men; virtually everyone is exposed to it by adulthood. HPV is a part of family of viruses that is spread through skin to skin contact. Generally, there are no symptoms and the virus clears up without treatment, but persistent infection with one of a few types of the virus cause almost all cervical cancers.
Factors that appear to increase the risk of cervical cancer include:

• failing to have regular Pap tests throughout life

• becoming sexually active at a young age

• having multiple sex partners or having a partner who has had  multiple sex partners

• smoking and second-hand smoke (smokers are about twice as  likely as non-smokers to develop cervical cancer)

• suppressing the immune system, which could happen as the  result of treatment with drugs following an organ transplant  or following an infection such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
“But the most important risk factor of all,” stresses Dr. Grimshaw, “is not having a regular Pap test. By simply not being tested, a woman makes herself high risk for developing cervical cancer”


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