Cancer Screening Frequently Asked Questions
Cervical Cancer Screening FAQ
When should I be screened for cervical cancer?
The Papanicolaou test, also known as the pap test or the pap smear is a common test used to screen for cervical cancer. Anyone with a cervix (women, transmasculine and non-binary people) ages 25 to 70, should get a Pap test every 3 years. If you are under 25, talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about whether you should be screened for cervical cancer before you turn 25.
You can stop regular screening at the age of 70 if you have had 3 or more normal tests in the previous 10 years.
Eligible people need to get cervical screening even if they:
- feel healthy and have no symptoms
- are no longer sexually active
- have only had 1 sexual partner
- are in a same-sex relationship
- have been through menopause
- have no family history of cervical cancer
- have received the HPV vaccine
People who have had a hysterectomy should talk to their doctor or nurse practitioner to see if they need to continue cervical screening.
What are the benefits of being screened for cervical cancer?
- A Pap test looks for abnormal cells on the cervix that may turn into cancer. Regular Pap tests may help prevent cervical cancer by finding cervical cell changes in your body that would become cancer if left untreated.
- A Pap test helps find cervical cancer early before it spreads or you have symptoms. Early detection increases your chance of survival and may mean less treatment and less time spent recovering.
What kind of follow up can I expect after my cervical cancer screening?
Following your Pap test, your doctor or nurse practitioner will contact you with your results. Pap test results can be normal or abnormal.
If your results are abnormal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. However, you may need to take a repeat Pap test in a few months or see a specialist for more tests, so it is important that you follow up with your doctor to see what the next steps are.
How do I book a cervical cancer screening?
South Georgian Bay residents with a family doctor or nurse practitioner
- Please contact your family doctor or nurse practitioner to book an appointment for a pap test.
South Georgian Bay residents who do not have access to a local family doctor or nurse practitioner
- Click here to check if we are booking appointments for Pap-A-Palooza, our a cervical cancer screening clinic for residents who do not have a local family doctor or nurse practicioner. The clinic is offered three time a year so if booking is closed, please follow us on facebook or twitter or subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page to get updates about our next clinic.
Breast Cancer Screening FAQ
When should I be screened for breast cancer?
All women, trans and nonbinary people should discuss breast cancer screening with their health care provider to determine their risk of developing breast cancer and the appropriate screening schedule for their risk factors.
High risk individuals
Women, trans and nonbinary people ages 30 to 69 who are determined to be high risk for breast cancer by their health care provider should have a mammogram and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every year.
Average risk individuals
Women, trans and nonbinary people ages 50 to 74 who are average risk for breast cancer should have a mammogram every 2 years.
What are the benefits of being screened for breast cancer?
- Getting screened regularly with mammography is important because it can find cancer early when it is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. Treatment may also have a better chance of working when breast cancer is found early.
- When breast cancer is found early, most people will survive for at least 5 years. However, if breast cancer is found later, only 3 out of 10 people will survive for at least 5 years.
What kind of follow up can I expect after my breast cancer screening?
Normal screening result
- The Ontario Breast Screening Program directly notifies participants (with or without a primary care provider) of their normal results by mail. The letter will also tell participants when to get screened again.
- The screening site also sends normal screening results to a screening participant’s primary care provider.
Abnormal screening result
- Most people with abnormal mammograms do not have breast cancer. More tests are needed after an abnormal mammogram to determine whether a person has cancer.
- Additional testing may include more mammography, breast ultrasound, breast magnetic resonance imaging and/or biopsies.
- After a participant has an abnormal screening result, their screening site will notify their primary care provider and may help to schedule a timely follow-up appointment.
- A participant with an abnormal mammogram who does not have a primary care provider will be assigned to a doctor or nurse practitioner by their screening site to follow them to diagnosis. If the participant does have breast cancer, they will be referred to a specialist for further care and management.
How do I book a breast cancer screening?
- To book a screening appointment, call 1-800-668-9304 or go to Ontario Breast Screening Program Locations.
Colorectal Cancer Screening FAQ
When should I be screened for colorectal cancer?
Your health care provider will help you determine when you should be screened for colorectal cancer and what screening test should be used based on your age and risk factors.
It is recommended that individuals with an average risk are screened with a fecal immunochemical test every two years starting at age 50.
What are the benefits of being screened for colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer screening increases the chance of finding cancer early when it is more likely to be cured. When colorectal cancer is caught early, 9 out of 10 people can be cured. If you have colorectal cancer and do not get screened, you may miss the chance for early and more effective treatment.
What types of screening are available for colorectal cancer?
Fecal Immunochemical Test
- A fecal immunochemical test (the recommended colorectal cancer screening test for most people, also called FIT) is a safe and painless at-home cancer screening test. FIT checks someone’s stool (poop) for tiny amounts of blood, which could be caused by colorectal cancer or some pre-cancerous polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time).
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a colorectal cancer screening test. During the test, a doctor uses a small, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end to look inside the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower part of the colon). They can also take biopsies (tissue samples) or remove polyps (abnormal growths that form on the lining of the colon or rectum). You do not need sedation (medication that helps you relax or sleep) or need to change your diet for a flexible sigmoidoscopy.
- A colonoscopy is a test that allows a doctor to look at the entire colon using a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end. During a colonoscopy, the doctor can also take biopsies (samples of tissue) or remove polyps that can become cancer over time (called pre-cancerous polyps).
How do I book a colorectal cancer screening?
Fecal Immunochemical Test
- The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is an at-home screening test. To get your free FIT, talk with your family doctor or nurse practitioner. If you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, you can get a FIT by calling Health811 at 811 (TTY: 1.866.797.0007). People in the North West region or the Hamilton area may be able to get a FIT through one of our mobile screening coaches. If you live on a First Nation community, contact your health centre or nursing station for more information.
- Once a FIT has been ordered for you, LifeLabs will mail a FIT package to your Ontario mailing address of choice. For more information on how to do your FIT, see the FIT Instructions page.
- If you have any problems with your FIT package, call LifeLabs at 1-833-676-1426.
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a test done by a specialist (called an “endoscopist”) at a hospital or clinic. Your doctor or nurse practitioner can send you to an endoscopist for flexible sigmoidoscopy.
- A colonoscopy is a test done by a specialist at a hospital or clinic. Your family doctor or nurse practitioner will send you for the test. If you think you may be at increased risk of getting colorectal cancer, be sure to speak with your family doctor or nurse practitioner. If you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, call Health811 at 811 (TTY: 1.866.797.0007).