The cervix is at the top of the vagina and is the opening to the uterus. The cervix is made up of cells, the building blocks of our bodies. In many women, cells on the cervix can change from healthy to unhealthy. Typically, the unhealthy cells change back to healthy cells on their own.
In other instances, unhealthy cell changes are the first step that can lead to cancer of the cervix. The good news is that almost all cancers of the cervix can be stopped when early cell changes are found and treated. A regular Pap test can show cell changes that can be treated before they become cancer.
All women need a regular Pap test within three years of starting any kind of sexual activity.
- Cervical cancer is the tenth most common cancer in Ontario females of all ages, but it is the second most common among women under 50 years.
- Incidence (number of new cases) and mortality (death) rates declined between 1981 and 2002 in all age groups.
- Five-year survival has improved slightly since 1981.
- Screening with regular Pap tests is the most important factor leading to the decline in incidence and mortality and the improvement in survival.
- High-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main factor linked to the development of cervical cancer and precancerous changes in the cervix.
- Although cervical cancer is almost 100% preventable with regular Pap test screening, only 81% of Ontario women have had a recent Pap test.
Source: Cancer Care Ontario