Pap tests ‘not as bad as you think’

Screening day set up for Agassiz-area women

You will be seeing many yellow and pink posters around Agassiz and other B.C communities in October, announcing LACE: Live Aware Create Empowerment.

LACE started off in the spring of 2009 as a group of young women spreading the message that other young women can talk about Pap tests. They want young women to know that it’s an empowering thing to do, and not  as bad as you think.

Since starting up, LACE has been promoting the BC Cancer Agency’s Pap Awareness Week which, this year, is set aside from October 23 29.

The Agassiz Community Health Center will be opening its doors to encourage women to come in for Pap screening on Wednesday, October 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This opportunity is available to all women, younger and older – whether they have a regular doctor or not.

Women can just walk in to have the screening done, or can book ahead by calling 604-703-2030.

Pap screening is one of the most effective screening tests ever devised to detect cervical cancer. Cervical cancer affects the cervix, which is part of the female reproductive system. It is the lowest portion of a woman’s uterus (womb) and is located at the top of the vagina. The cervix is made up of many cells, which can change from being healthy to abnormal. Some of these changes are noncancerous but some cells may become cancerous.

So far, it is not fully understood what causes cells to become abnormal and grow out of control. However, what is known is that most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus that is passed from person to person during intimate sexual contact. There are more than 100 types of HPV and of these, about 15 can cause cervical cancer.

Infection of the cervix with HPV is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer. It is estimated that 75 per cent of individuals who are sexually active will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Becoming sexually active at an early age (before 18) is also linked to a higher risk of cervical cancer. And, a woman is more likely to get HPV if she has multiple partners. Most women infected with HPV will not get cervical cancer, but the likelihood of developing cervical cancer increases if the woman smokes, has HIV or reduced immunity or doesn’t get regular Pap tests.

If precancerous cells are not found and left untreated, they can progress to more invasive cancer of the cervix. Therefore, regular pap screen testing allows for early detection of precancerous cells and for initiation of treatment before these cells become cancerous.

Cervical cancer is a disease you can help prevent; a simple pap test can save your life!

• This information was submitted by the Agassiz Community Health Centre.