Can I still get screened for cervical cancer during the pandemic?
October 5 to 9 marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Week 2020. With so much of our focus currently on COVID-19, it can be easy to ignore or downplay additional health concerns. You may fear going to the Hospital or are perhaps under the assumption that testing is not available.
You may be surprised to know that despite COVID-19 restrictions, many health care providers are once again offering regular Pap tests and cervical cancer screening. The Ontario Cervical Screening Program recommends that women who are or have been sexually active have a Pap test every 3 years starting at age 21.
When should I contact my health care provider?
If you are due or overdue for your regular Pap test, now is the time to contact your health care provider to arrange one.
“Of course we know the healthcare system is busy right now” acknowledges Dr. Robert Di Cecco, who is the Regional Cervical Lead for the South West Regional Cancer Program, “But the last thing we want is someone who is due for a test, or seeing symptoms to ignore that. It’s still as important as ever to get screened”.
Should you find yourself suddenly experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, contact your health care provider immediately:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain/ feeling of fullness in the pelvis
- Anything else you believe to be unusual
While many of these symptoms can be benign, they may also be indicators of cervical cancer, and should not be ignored.
What if I can’t get a test from my health care provider?
Many health care providers are working through backlogged appointments, so you may have trouble getting in to see your doctor. You may also find that your health care provider has not yet resumed performing Pap tests. If you have concerning symptoms and are unable to get in to see your health care provider for a Pap test, you do have several other options:
- Visit your local health unit to discuss your concerns. Some offer testing, or they can direct you to local resources.
- Visit a walk-in clinic in your area to discuss your symptoms and request a Pap.
- Contact Telehealth for further guidance.
Note that you may also experience longer than usual wait times for your test results. Your health care provider can give you an idea of how long you can expect to wait now.
What else can I do?
If you are concerned about symptoms, remember that you are the best advocate for your health. If something seems not right and your health care provider is unable to see you, follow-up, or consider another option as listed above. Do not ignore symptoms, and do not ignore things that concern you about your health.
For more information on cervical screening, visit www.cancercareontario.ca/ccaw.