British Columbia has updated its cervical cancer screening policy. The new policy recommends that women between the ages of 25 to 69 get a cervical cancer screening (Pap test) every three years. This new evidence-based policy ensures that women continue to benefit from screening while avoiding unnecessary tests and follow-up treatment.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because it has a pre-cancerous phase, and the transition from the earliest change to cancer takes many years. "Screening every three years provides sufficient time to identify and treat any pre-cancerous conditions long before they ever turn into cervical cancer," explains Dr. Dirk Van Niekerk, Medical Director of the BC Cancer Agency's Cervical Screening Program.
In its earliest stages, cervical cancer often has no symptoms, which is why screening is so important. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding (such as bleeding in between periods, bleeding during/after sex or after menopause), abnormal or persistent vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain. If anyone with a cervix experiences any of these symptoms, they should be seen by a doctor.
Changes to BC’s cervical cancer screening policy are the result of recommendations from two BC-based expert reviews. Furthermore, the new policy is consistent with the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommendations, and Alberta Health’s cervical screening guidelines. “This new policy ensures that women continue to benefit from screening but avoid unnecessary tests and follow-up treatment.” commented Dr. Malcolm Moore, President of the BC Cancer Agency.