Two Winnipeg health care professionals want women to start talking — about cervical cancer.
"We want to encourage people to engage in dialogue with friends and family, as there are some things we don’t talk about," said Lesley Dyck, a recruitment and health promotions specialist for CervixCheck, CancerCare Manitoba.
On the heels of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, CervixCheck, CancerCare Manitoba’s cervical screening program is highlighting the importance of having Pap tests (or smears) to help prevent cervical cancer at telleverywoman.ca.
Women are often reluctant to talk about cervical cancer and Pap tests because it is caused by HPV — a common sexually transmitted infection which can be contracted through sexual contact, including intercourse, oral sex or intimate touching, Dyck said.
It’s recommended that a woman should begin having tests within three years of becoming sexually active, and then have one every two years, Dyck added.
"It’s the common cold of STIs, but it has negative connotations. There are different ways to create a conversation, such as dialogue between men and women or creating a conversation on Facebook or Twitter," she said.
In fact, HPV is surprisingly common, as three out of four men and women will be infected with it at some point in their lifetime. Dyck said while most cases don’t cause cancer, HPV can cause abnormal changes on the cervix.
About 60% of women in Manitoba diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a Pap test in five years or more. Each year, approximately 45 women in the province are diagnosed with the disease. Regular Pap tests can prevent up to 80% of cervical cancer.
Kim Barrett, a community health nurse at Youville Centre in St. Vital, said the facility offers several services, including pap tests and a Teen Clinic. Staff will also provide group presentations to organizations that work with Canadian newcomers, such as René Deleurme Centre.
Barrett said a Pap test is focused on the cervix — the lower part of the uterus, which joins the womb to the vagina — and only takes a few minutes.
"A women lies on her back on the examination table with her feet in foot rests. She is dressed from the waist up and draped in a blanket from the waist down," she said.
"A speculum is then used to slightly open the vagina and lights up to see the cervix. Once in, some cells are collected using a spatula and a little brush. It’s not painful, but it can be uncomfortable or awkward."
There are numerous Pap clinics across Winnipeg, including Hope Centre Health Care, Klinic Community Health Care, Mount Carmel Clinic and Pembina Medical Clinic.
For more information, visit telleverywoman.ca. To learn more about Youville Centre, visit youville.ca or call 204-255-4840.