Pap test can save your life

<p>If the thought of getting a Pap testmakes you squirm, just think how awkward the treatment for cervical cancer would be.</p>


B.C. cancer agency’s awareness campaign targets women in 20s




If the thought of getting a Pap testmakes you squirm, just think how awkward the treatment for cervical cancer would be.

This is the message of the British Columbia Cancer Agency, which yesterday launched a month-long ad campaign promoting the simple and potentially life-saving test to those most reluctant to take it – women in their 20s.

Dr. Dirk van Niekerk, medical leader for the agency’s Vancouver-based cervical cancer screening program, said only 63 per cent of women under 30 get regular Pap tests –10 per cent below the provincial average.

Women in their 20s might either think they’re not at risk for cancer or are simply squeamish about the procedure, but van Niekerk said they are at the highest risk of having the potentially dangerous abnormal cells that Pap tests detect.

"That’s exactly the stage where you want to catch the disease because that’s where it’s completely treatable and curable," said van

(cervical can-cer) is the second-most common cancer in women after breast cancer."

The new campaign features a series of posters in washrooms at nightclubs, restaurants, schools, health centres and even Facebook.

Anne McCulloch, promotion and education specialist for the cervical cancer screening program, said the Pap test participation rate of women under 30 doubled in the three months following last year’s ad campaign.

"We’re trying to reach women in the places they go and get them thinking about it in their everyday lives," she said.

Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus, which is sexually transmitted. Van Niekerk said at any given time 30 per cent of women in their 20s have the virus, which he said is common and usually goes away.

"There isn’t that much you can do to prevent the infection, but even if it doesn’t go away the Pap test will abnormal- we’ll be able to treat it."

Pap campaign

  • The B.C. Cancer Agency’s Pap campaign features an illustration, right, of a woman’s torso in which its message is written.

  • 2,128 women under 30 were found to have moderate or severe cell changes in their Pap tests in 2006.

  • Around 144 women in B.C. were diagnosed with cervical cancer last year.

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