TORONTO - Researchers say that fewer than half of Ontario women with abnormal Pap smears receive the recommended followup care.

The study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that very young women were the least likely to have Pap tests and they were also less likely to have appropriate followup of abnormal results.

And post-menopausal women were the least likely to have a repeat test after an unsatisfactory Pap smear.

Pap tests are used to screen for cervical cancer. After an abnormal finding, there would normally either be a repeat test or colposcopy, a procedure that examines a woman's cervix and vagina.

Overall in Ontario, the study found that in 2004-2005, 69 per cent of women with no history of cervical cancer or prior hysterectomy had at least one Pap test in the last three years.

Women living in lower-income neighbourhoods were less likely to have had at least one Pap test in the previous three years compared to women in higher-income neighbourhoods.

Principal investigator Dr. Arlene Bierman of St. Michael's Hospital says a special effort should be made to reach women who are screened but who do not receive the necessary followup.

"To improve surveillance and treatment, we need a system that ensures all abnormal Pap tests are followed up so that Ontario women can receive the best care possible," she said in a statement.

The findings on Pap smears are contained in a report entitled Cancer. The work was funded by Echo: Improving Women's Health in Ontario, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

An estimated 1,300 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, according the Canadian Cancer Society, and an estimated 380 will die from the disease.

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