Nearly three-quarters of Ontario women hold incorrect belief that a Pap test detects sexually-transmitted infections

TORONTO, ON (April 11, 2016) – Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of Ontario women incorrectly believe a Pap test detects sexually-transmitted infections and almost half (48 per cent) believe a Pap test screens for vaginal cancer, shows a new survey commissioned by Cancer Care Ontario. The survey also found that almost half (49 per cent) of women surveyed don’t know that cervical cancer is preventable.

In 2015, approximately 640 women in Ontario were diagnosed with cervical cancer and an estimated 150 died from the disease. This April, Cancer Care Ontario has partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to raise awareness about cervical cancer prevention and the importance of getting screened.

“It’s important for women to know that cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular screening, appropriate and timely follow-up of abnormal results and HPV immunization,” says Dr. Joan Murphy, Clinical Lead, Ontario Cervical Screening Program, Cancer Care Ontario. “If a woman has not had a Pap test within the last three years, she should speak with her family doctor as soon as possible.”

A Pap test is a simple screening test that can help prevent cervical cancer. Women aged 21 to 69 should get screened for cancer with a Pap test every three years if they are or have ever been sexually active. The test looks for abnormal cervical cell changes, but it does not test for other cancers in the reproductive organs, such as ovarian cancer, or for sexually-transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A Pap test can be done at your family doctor’s office, and if you don’t have a doctor, you can get a test done at a walk-in clinic or sexual health clinic.

Key survey findings:

  • Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of women surveyed incorrectly believe a Pap test detects sexually-transmitted infections, specifically human papillomavirus (HPV) (51 per cent), chlamydia (40 per cent) gonorrhea (36 per cent) and bacterial vaginosis (34 per cent).
  • Of the 90 per cent of women who said a Pap test screens for cancer, nearly one-half (48 per cent) incorrectly believe it tests for vaginal cancer. More than one-third believe it tests for ovarian cancer (37 per cent) and uterine cancer (34 per cent).
  • Sixty-one per cent of women surveyed know that a Pap test should be done every three years; however, 75 per cent of women either don’t know when they should stop having a Pap test or think they should continue indefinitely.
  • Four in five women are aware that having a regular Pap test will help reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer (82 per cent), but far fewer indicate knowing about other methods of protection: only 44 per cent said HPV immunization, 24 per cent said always using a condom and 22 per cent said being monogamous.

“Promoting cancer prevention and the importance of cancer screening is one of the core priorities of the Canadian Cancer Society,” says Susan Flynn, Senior Manager Cancer Prevention, Canadian Cancer Society Ontario Division. “We are pleased to be partnering with Cancer Care Ontario on this important initiative to ensure that women prioritize their own health and take the time to book a Pap test if they are overdue for one.”

Most cervical cancers are diagnosed in women who have never been screened or have not been screened regularly. Cancer Care Ontario sends letters to eligible women inviting them to book a Pap test and get screened for cervical cancer. Letters are also sent to women to remind them to follow-up with their healthcare provider about test results and let them know when it is time to return for screening.

“In Ontario, women aged 21 to 69 have access to comprehensive, coordinated, high-quality cervical cancer screening through the Ontario Cervical Screening Program,” says Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “Screening is a proven way to stop cervical cancer before it starts and reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer. Increasing cancer screening participation rates across the province is an important part of our government’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care.”

Call your doctor to book your Pap test today. Visit to learn more about the campaign or to find a clinic near you.

About the survey:

From February 25, 2016 to March 3, 2016, Angus Reid conducted an online survey among 1,018 randomly selected female Ontario residents between the ages of 35 and 49. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability— would be +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20 on a probability sample of the same size. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Cancer Care Ontario:

Cancer Care Ontario plays an important role in equipping health professionals, organizations and policy-makers with the most up-to-date cancer knowledge and tools to prevent cancer and deliver high-quality patient care. It does this by collecting and analyzing data about cancer services and combining it with evidence and research that is shared with the healthcare community in the form of guidelines and standards. It also monitors and measures the performance of the cancer system, and oversees a funding and governance model that ties funding to performance, making healthcare providers more accountable and ensuring value for investments in the system.

Cancer Care Ontario actively engages people with cancer and their families in the design, delivery and evaluation of Ontario’s cancer system, and works to improve the performance of Ontario’s cancer system by driving quality, accountability, innovation and value.

About The Canadian Cancer Society:

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization dedicated to preventing cancer, saving lives and supporting people living with cancer through research funding, services and advocacy. We are Canada’s largest charity fighting all types of cancer and leading authority on cancer statistics and information. To learn more, call 1 888 939-3333 or visit

For more information, please contact:

Cancer Care Ontario
Erin MacFarlane, Communications Advisor
Phone: 1-855-460-2646

Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division
Susan Fekete, Communications Specialist
Phone: 613-723-1744 ext. 3616

(Source: Cancer Care Ontario)