Women’s Health Screen

100 years ago in 1923, Georgios Papanikoloaou and Aurel Babes invented the Pap test which is now also known as cervical screening or a smear test. Prior to this, cervical cancer was amongst the most deadly cancer types because symptoms typically do not show until the disease has progressed significantly. Thanks to early detection with screening, cervical cancer has a 92% survival rate today.

The Pap test itself is not painful and involves taking a sample of the cells at the cervical/uterine border. The cells are examined microscopically at BC Cancer to look for any abnormalities or changes of cell type. The changes if seen are categorized as mild, moderate, severe and cancerous. Depending on the results, women will be asked to return for another test in 3-36 months or sent on for further diagnostic testing.

Who should have cervical screening and what are the guidelines?

For the Pap test, anyone with a cervix between the ages of 25 to 69 which includes transgender people and women in same-sex relationships. When normal results are found, cervical cancer screening can be every 3 years.

Women’s screening appointments include a physical exam of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina and breasts. This process takes approximately 15 minutes with additional time to discuss sexual health history and current concerns.

Breast health

A typical female exam will include a manual breast exam by the practitioner. Women are also encouraged to perform monthly self breast exams to become familiar with their breast tissue and note if a change arises. Women age 40 and over can book their own mammogram appointments for screening purposes without a referral (at BC When’s Breast Health Services clinic, booking information can be found here. If a breast lump is found with self-screening, a referral is required for a diagnostic evaluation which may be done as a mammogram or as an ultra sound. Breast screening should be performed on any person with breast tissue, including transgender people.

Women’s screening program

During a 30 minute appointment, we will review your gynecological health and discuss any current concerns or symptoms. The best time to book is mid-cycle which means about 2 weeks after your period starts. There is no additional fee for the cervical screening and physical exam, only the 30 minute appointment. Women who are current patients or those who are only looking to have the exam done can book. Many women missed their usual screening interval over the past 2 years due to the pandemic and are finding it difficult to book with a provider. As the healthcare system catches up, please be aware that results are currently taking 3 months to come back. If an abnormal result is determined, Naturopathic physicians can refer on to further screening and specialized medical care.