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Ate Anna    When to have the first Pap test

Dear Ate Anna,

Recently, we threw a party to celebrate our daughter’s debut. She is now 18 years of age and entering into adulthood. She’s an intelligent, mature young woman and we are so proud of her. Ate Anna, I have a question about her health. At eighteen, does she need to see a doctor for a Pap test? I know this is part of preventing cancer of the cervix.


Dear Stella,

When to have the first Pap test? Some health sources recommend having the first Pap test after becoming sexually active or by age 18, whichever comes first.

According to the new Manitoba Cervical Cancer Screening Program (MCSSP), all women who are, or have ever been sexually active (sexual intercourse and intimate touching) should have regular Pap tests done. Stella, age is not a factor when deciding whether or not to go for a Pap test. There is no need for a Pap test as long as a woman is not having any kind of sexual relationship - regardless of her age. The first Pap test should happen two years after she first becomes sexually active.

On the other hand, regardless of age (young or old), if a woman has ever engaged in sexual intercourse, oral sex, or close, skin-to-skin intimate touching, she needs to have regular Pap tests. It is through sexual activity, even just a one-time experience, that a woman can come in contact with HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). This virus can cause changes to a woman’s cervix that may lead to cancer of the cervix (cervical cancer).

Stella, as you said in your question, Pap tests are an important part of preventing cervical cancer. A Pap test is a simple test that can find changes in the cells of the cervix – also known as the “neck of the womb”. If these changes in the cervix are found early, there are treatments that can cure the problem. If left untreated, these abnormal cells may continue to grow and, over time, can develop into cervical cancer.

There are usually no symptoms that warn a woman about these changes to the cervix or early cervical cancer. She will still feel well. Regular Pap tests can discover changes to the cervix in the early stages and greatly reduce the chances of getting cervical cancer.

Most women need a Pap test once a year. If those results are normal for three years in a row, she needs to go for a Pap test only once every two years after that. Women need to continue having regular Pap tests until 70 years of age. A woman can stop having Pap tests done when she reaches 70 years old, if she has had three or more Pap test results that were normal in the previous 10 years, and she has had no change in partner.

Ate Anna thinks that you love and care for your daughter very much. You are concerned about keeping her body healthy. If your daughter has been sexually active, you need to encourage her to go for a Pap test. If she has never been sexually active, you need to educate her about the benefits of regular Pap tests once she is in a sexual relationship.

But Stella, don’t forget to look after yourself! When was the last time you had a Pap test? You can call the Manitoba Cervical Cancer Screening Program at 788-8626 to find out. If you have not had one done recently, please go to your own doctor for a Pap test.

Pap Test Week is October 19 – October 23, 2009. During this week, participating health clinics are offering walk-in Pap tests. You don’t need to make an appointment. For more information about the locations of participating clinics and when they are open, you can call Manitoba Cervical Cancer Screening Program at 788-8626.

Take care,
Ate Anna

Ate Anna Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200 – 226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail:

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