Cervical cancer screening is performed through analysis of a cytological smear or Pap test.

The procedure has been applied for over 40 years in Quebec and elsewhere in the world. It is most often offered to women by their family physician.

It is estimated that since the introduction of the procedure, the incidence of this type of cancer and mortality associated with it have decreased by over 70% in countries that have high screening participation rates.

The Pap test is performed by a medical professional who takes a small sample of cervical cells that are then examined under a microscope in order to detect abnormal changes prior to the development of cancer.

Here are some recommendations from the Institut de santé publique du Québec:
  • Target population for screening: all women who are, or have been, sexually active.
  • The recommended age for beginning screening is 21.
  • The recommended interval between screening tests is 2 to 3 years.
  • For women who have had regular screening tests, screening can end at age 65 if the results of the last 2 tests carried out in the preceding 10 years were negative.
  • Moreover, the Pap test is not indicated for women who have had a total hysterectomy for a benign condition.
For additional information, please consult the electronic brochure issued by the l'Institut de santé publique du Québec (in French only).

Should I have the screening test if I have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV)?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) family comprises several types of viruses. Some types of HPV are sexually transmitted. It is possible to catch more than one type of HPV during one’s lifetime.

Vaccination is effective against certain types of HPV. However, it does not protect against all HPV. You are therefore recommended to undergo the same screening if you have been vaccinated.

The vaccine is free to all girls in primary 4.

The following can also get the vaccine free under the Quebec Immunization Program:
  • girls aged 9-17
  • men and women aged 18 to 26 whose immune system is weakened or who are infected with HIV (HIV).
For more information on HPV, visit this Web site.

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