Maintaining physical and sexual health is important.
Sexually active women need to have regular PAP testing and a physical exam done by a family doctor or nurse practitioner. Men and women need to be “Breast Aware” in order to identify and treat breast cancer early. Men need to become comfortable with their testicles and learn how to do testicular self exams, to check for lumps which may lead to testicular cancer.
PAP and Pelvic Exam
Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer among women, but if diagnosed and treated early, it is the most curable.
PAP tests should begin at age 21 for women who are or have ever been sexually active. Women who are not sexually active by age 21 should delay the PAP test until they are sexually active. If your test result is normal, PAP tests should occur every 3 years. Screening every 3 years is safe and effective. PAP tests may be discontinued at age 70 if there have been 3 or more normal PAP test results in the previous 10 years. When women become sexually active, they put themselves at risk for both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). STI’s can range anywhere from chlamydia and gonorrhea to genital herpes and genital warts. Genital warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus or HPV. HPV is passed from person to person sexually. Certain types of HPV have been shown to cause changes in the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer.
In addition to HPV, other risk factors which may lead to cervical cancer include:
- Not having a regular PAP test
- Becoming sexually active at a young age
- Having multiple sexual partners
Some women may develop cervical cancer having no risk factors at all.
What Happens During a PAP and Pelvic Exam?
A PAP test is an normal exam women regularly have. It’s nothing to fear. It is a normal part of being a woman and staying healthy. Some women may feel more comfortable having this done by a female physician or nurse practitioner. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has a female nurse practitioner on staff to help women feel more comfortable while having this procedure done.
During a PAP test, your physician or nurse practitioner will insert a speculum into your vagina. The speculum holds the walls of the vagina open to allow your health care provider to examine your vagina to be sure it is healthy. While the speculum is in place, a sample of cells from the cervix will be collected and sent to the lab to be examined for cervical cancer. A swab (long Q-tip) may be inserted into the vagina to test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Your physician or nurse practitioner will also do an internal pelvic exam. During this exam, the health care provider will check your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus to be sure all these structures are healthy. If you feel you are at risk for an STI, ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to test for STIs during your appointment.
Breast cancer is a complex disease that is linked to different risk factors. You can’t change some of the risk factors like being female, getting older, starting your period early, going into menopause late, having dense breasts, having a family history of breast cancer, frequent chest x-rays before age 30, or a mutation in the BRCA genes. However, there are other risk factors you can change. By living well, about 1 in 3 breast cancers could be prevented. Important things such as having a healthy body weight, eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, being physically active, avoiding or limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, limiting hormone use, and reducing exposure to chemicals can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, and make you feel great too!
Becoming Breast Aware in 5 Steps
- Learn how your breasts normally look and feel
- Know what changes to check for
- Look and feel for changes in your breasts
- Report any changes to a health care provider
- Learn about the benefits and limitations of getting a mammogram
- Stand up or lie down on your back
- For each breast, move the pads of your middle three fingers around the breast in a circular motion noting any unusual pain or lumps
- Most breast cancers are found in the upper outer portion of the breast
- Include the entire breast, under your armpit to the collarbone, and below the breast
- Stand in front of the mirror with arms at your sides and check your breasts for any abnormalities and changes in size, shape, dimpling or puckering of the skin, pushed in or misshapen nipples, redness, and swelling
- Repeat this with hands on hips
- Raise your arms behind your head and turn to each side to inspect your breast profile
Only you are in charge of your reproductive sexual health.
For more information on Reproductive Sexual Health, please contact the Sexual Health Program of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.
- In Simcoe: 519-426-6170
- In Caledonia: 905-318-5367
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Public Health Agency of Canada
The Canadian Testicular Association