Concordia’s Health Services offers students pap tests
The government of Canada has reported that cervical cancer has been steadily declining and they believe this is directly connected to an increase in Pap tests.
Anne-Marie Lanctôt, manager at Concordia University’s Health Services, said there are slots reserved every Monday for Pap tests. The timing for these appointments depends on the patient’s needs, as well as the physician’s availability. “Paps can also be done throughout the week with any of our physicians, not only on Mondays,” Lanctôt said.
“Students don’t need to pay any out-of-pocket fees if they are covered by Quebec medical insurance (RAMQ), they have out of province insurance or Blue Cross coverage which is up to date,” said Lanctôt. “These exams are covered by health insurance and available to students as per the Canadian guidelines, every one to three years.”
Thinking women are screened for all STIs is a common misconception about Pap tests, according to Lanctôt. “The screening guidelines for Pap tests are distinct from the screening guidelines for STI testing, and they depend on a number of factors,” said Lanctôt. “This is a screening test for abnormal cells on the cervix.” Abnormalities could indicate precancerous or cancerous cells caused by Human Papilloma Virus.
Emma, a student who used the clinic’s services, said she was advised to book an appointment when she went in for an STI screening. “I had just turned 21 and it’s highly recommended to get it done after that, in case of health risks,” she said.
Concordia’s Pap test page advises women to get Pap screenings every one to three years as of 21 years of age depending on a woman’s risk factor. “High risk groups might include: women with very early onset of sexual activity, women with multiple partners, and immunocompromised women,” said Lanctôt.
These tests can be conducted as part of a standard checkup or a pelvic exam. Before her exam began, Emma was asked about her sexual history, if she had had all her vaccinations, about her medical history, and whether or not she has noticed any unusual symptoms
Emma said the whole process lasted about 10 minutes. During a Pap test, a nurse or doctor will insert a device called a speculum into the vagina and then scrape a sample of cells from within the cervix. “It was uncomfortable at first, but then became painful,” said Emma. “I could manage it, but it wasn’t something I would like to feel again.”
The sample is then tested for any abnormalities.
“What I wasn’t aware of is that it takes three to five months to get Pap test results back, so that threw me off a bit,” Emma said.
According to Lanctôt, people often assume abnormal Pap test results means they have cancer, which isn’t the case. In some cases, abnormal cells return to normal. However, if the results come back as abnormal, a follow-up exam will most likely be scheduled.
The Canadian Cancer Society outlines several follow-up tests and/or treatments for abnormal results which include another Pap test, an HPV test and an endocervical curettage, “a type of biopsy that removes cells from the endocervical canal which is the passageway from the uterus to the vagina.”
Students can book an appointment any day of the week through Concordia’s Health Services by calling the office or visiting the clinic on the second floor of the GM building on the Sir George Williams campus. Health Services is also located at AD 131 on the Loyola campus.
To protect our source’s privacy The Concordian used a pseudonym.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin.