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Pap-A-Palooza campaign stresses need for cervical screening

The goal for this year’s campaign is for 800 pap tests to be completed among 30 health-care organizations across Northwestern Ontario.

THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and 30 health care organizations in the region are teaming up to have more people get cervical screenings.

Their Pap-A-Palooza campaign, which is in its seventh year, is looking to complete 800 pap tests across Northwestern Ontario over the next month.

A pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer before people feel any symptoms.

“In Northwestern Ontario, our pap screening rate is around 50 percent and we should be a lot higher than that,” said Dr. Naana Jumah, the Ontario Health – Cancer Care Ontario regional colposcopy and cervical screening lead for the North West region.

“One of the goals of Pap-A-Palooza is to raise awareness about cervical screening and the importance of cervical screening, even amongst those who do get screened. This gives them an opportunity to talk with their mothers, sisters and aunties about screening and maybe get those people to come out who wouldn’t otherwise go.”

The Ontario Cervical Screening Program recommends that anyone with a cervix between the ages of 25 to 69 and anyone who is or has ever been sexually active get a pap test every three years.

“What we do in a pap test is we detect changes on the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer,” said Jumah, who is also an obstetrician gynecologist at TBRHSC.

“By catching those changes before they become cancer, we’re able to treat them and get rid of them and prevent cancer altogether.”

Jumah added that it’s important for everyone to get screened, but especially for those who are older in age.

“We find that younger women get screened more often, but as we get older and approach menopause, the screening rates begin to decline,” Jumah said.

Jumah noted oftentimes people are afraid to get a cervical screening because they think they are checking for cervical cancer, when in fact all they are looking for is pre-cancer changes.

She also said some people find the whole process to be uncomfortable, which prevents them from getting screened.

“You can get screened in a very safe, dignified, and comfortable way,” Jumah said. “It’s important to have that conversation with your health-care provider about your fears about screening to make it a better experience for yourself.

“Just tell them that you’re scared, hesitant or reluctant to get a pAP test because you’re worried that it might hurt. You can ask to see some of the equipment and you can ask for them to explain what’s happening before they do it. All of these things can be really helpful.”

To learn more about Pap-A-Palooza and participating clinics, visit the TBRHSC’s website or call 807-684-7787.

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