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Mobile Pap Party clinics provide cervical screening for those without family doctor

Main entrance of the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. Photo via KHSC website.

National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week is October 24-30, and to help encourage cervical cancer screening members of the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario (CCSEO), in partnership with Queen’s University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology program, are hitting the road for the annual Pap Party pop-up cervical cancer screening clinics.

“For those who do not have a family physician, these Pap Parties are a great opportunity to be screened for cervical cancer in a fast, supportive and convenient fashion,” said Dr. Hugh Langley, Regional Primary Care Lead at CCSEO. “The pap smear takes just 10 minutes and can detect minor, easily treatable changes in the cervix, well before any cancer can develop.”

Cervical cancer affects hundreds of people each year in Ontario. In 2020, approximately 550 people in Ontario were diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 185 people died from it, the Cancer Centre said in a release. The Centre went on to say that regular cervical screening can find abnormal cells that could become cancer, called pre-cancers, and treating those pre-cancers can help prevent cervical cancer.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many non-urgent health care procedures in Ontario, including cancer screening, were paused or deferred to prioritize urgent health care needs and reduce the spread of COVID-19. While screening has resumed, some patients have either been challenged to, or reluctant to, access routine medical care and screening, according to the release.

At any time, routine medical care is an important part of staying healthy and it’s vital that all eligible patients participate in regular cancer screening, the Cancer Centre stated. Findings from an Ontario study indicate that in 2020 there was about a 41 per cent drop in cancer screening tests compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. While screening for breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancer in 2021 remains 11 to 22 per cent below 2019 levels, volumes are beginning to increase as people return to get screened, according to the release. In June 2021, monthly cervical screening tests were 10 per cent below June 2019 levels.

This year’s Pap Party pop-up clinics will be held in Belleville, Tyendinaga and Kingston. Each Pap Party is staffed by Queen’s University medical students, residents, gynecologists and gynecologic oncologists and staff from the CCSEO.

“Having these Pap Party clinics is an important step in trying to screen for precancerous changes in the cervix and timely treating will reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in our region,” said Dr. Agrawal, physician, and one of the leads for this year’s Pap Party. “A pap is the most effective screening tool we have to reduce cervical cancer by more than 80 per cent in those with a cervix, and by opening it to individuals who may not have a family doctor and are overdue for their pap smear, we are making it easier than ever for them to get screened.”

In previous years, approximately 15 per cent of the pap smear tests done at these clinics showed abnormalities that required further follow-up with a physician, according to the release.

“As a result of the clinic participants taking 10 minutes out of their day to have a pap smear done, we were able to follow-up with them and offer treatment right away, saving them time, stress and worry down the road,” said Dr. Agrawal.

This year the Pap Party clinics will be in:

  • Kingston (25 King Street West, Kingston) October 27, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • Belleville (179 North Park Street, Belleville) October 28, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • Tyendinaga (50 Meadow Drive, Deseronto) October 28, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Anyone without a family doctor or nurse practitioner who is interested in booking an appointment at any of the above clinic locations can book online at www.CancerCareSouthEast.ca or by phoning 1-800-567-5722 ext. 6071.

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