The Papanicolaou (Pap) test is a method of cervical cancer screening for healthy women who may be at risk but are not showing signs of the disease. The purpose of screening with a Pap test is to prevent cervical cancer by identifying pre-cancerous changes to the cells of the cervix. Cancer Care Ontario updated its cervical cancer screening guidelines in 2012. Between 2008 and 2011, Cancer Care Ontario recommended women return for screening in 12 months. It now recommends cervical cancer screening every 3 years for women aged 21 to 69 who are, or who have ever been, sexually active. Screening can stop at 70 years of age in women who have had 3 or more normal tests within the previous 10 years.
Between 2012 and 2014, nearly 37,000 eligible females between 21 and 69 years of age in Simcoe Muskoka completed at least one Pap test with-in a 42-month period. The age-adjusted cervical cancer screening participation rate among eligible Simcoe Muskoka females between 2012 and 2014 was 62%, which was significantly lower than the overall provincial participation rate of 63%. The 2012-2014 cervical cancer screening participation rates were significantly lower than any of the previous reference periods for Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario as a whole. The change to the cervical cancer screening guidelines in 2012 may have influenced the decline in the most recent participation rates.
Among women living in urban areas in Ontario between 2012 and 2014, cervical cancer screening participation increased steadily and significantly as urban neighbourhood income quintiles rose.