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Changes proposed for cervical cancer screenings

Health officials are recommending changes to cervical cancer screenings, including raising the age for regular examinations.

Cancer Care Ontario wrote on its website that women who are 21 and sexually active should be screened every three years.

Previous guidelines suggested tests every two to three years.

“New research shows that screening women under age 21, regardless of the age they first became sexually active, doesn’t actually reduce their risk for cervical cancer,” said Dr. Linda Rabeneck of Cancer Care Ontario.

Screening for women under 21 is no longer recommended as cervical cancer rarely occurs at that age. Women should also delay screenings until they are sexually active, even if they are 21 or older.

Before, women were told they should have cervical screenings once they became sexually active, no matter how old they were.

Other changes include stopping Pap tests for women once they reach 70, if they have had three or more normal tests in the past 10 years.

Cancer Care Ontario also clarified sexual activity to include “intercourse, as well as digital or oral sexual activity involving the genital area with a partner of either gender.”

Every year in Ontario, about 550 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and roughly 160 die from the disease.

Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact.

Some strains of HPV can cause genital warts. While most women with HPV do not develop cervical cancer, some persistent infections lead to cancer, Cancer Care Ontario said.