One of the attributes that our Admissions Committee works very hard to identify in applicants is a commitment to service. This has multiple dimensions, involving service to both individual patients and communities. It’s therefore always very gratifying to learn of efforts such as that described below in todays guest article provided by students Lauren Wilson, Katherine Rabicki and Melissa Lorenzo.
In Canada, access to health care is seen as a universal right. When people think of access to care, however, we tend to define it by the availability of medically necessary procedures and frequently neglect consideration of preventative measures.
Cervical cancer has few symptoms, therefore it often progresses to a late stage before it is diagnosed. Yet cervical cancer is the most preventable of all cancers. By having pap smear screening tests, minor cervical abnormalities can be identified early and followed to ensure proper treatment. Pap smears have proven to be incredibly effective screening measures… so long as patients have access. Patients without a family physician or who cannot attend regular clinic hours often slip through the cracks, and as a result they may receive a cancer diagnosis that could have been easily prevented. Moreover, with the screening guidelines constantly in flux, patients may have outdated information regarding their eligibility.
Barriers to women’s health and access to care, including regular pap smears, are abundant. To name a few: patients may not have a primary care provider, be able to attend daytime clinic hours, had a negative experience in the past, or have a history of abuse. A significant barrier, that cannot be understated, is that pap smears are part of an intimate examination. Extra effort must therefore be made to cultivate a care environment that is sensitive and safe, in addition to accessible.
Started in 2015 during Cervical Cancer Awareness Week to help reduce barriers to care, Pap Party aims to educate the public on the importance of cervical cancer screening and to provide a safe space for eligible patients to be screened. Unfortunately, many women facing these barriers (and more) are from marginalized or underserved populations, including First Nations’ communities. While reducing the barriers completely will take years due to their multifactorial nature, expanding Pap Party clinics to outside the Kingston city limits serves as a critical step towards providing marginalized populations safe, accessible care. As all of our clinics, including in Kingston, Deseronto, Napanee, and Tyendinaga were situated in Indigenous territory, we worked hard to ensure the clinics were run in a culturally sensitive manner so that patients could receive the best possible care.
In 2016, 18% of the individuals who came to our Pap Party clinics were found to have abnormal pap smears that required follow-up by Gynecologic Oncology at Kingston Health Sciences – Kingston General Hospital site. Had it not been for these clinics, these patients may have never been identified!
In addition to running these clinics, this year we also promoted Cervical Cancer Awareness Week to all clinics in the South Eastern region to encourage clinics to host their own Pap Party. We are incredibly happy to announce that several clinics also hosted Pap parties including Kingston Street Health, and clinics in Belleville and Verona.
Every year more and more women are getting tested. We are proud to announce that this past week, Oct 16-19 2017, we had over 30 women attend our clinics and receive a pap test. Many of these women did not have family physicians and would have otherwise not had accessible access to pap tests.
If you are interested in hosting your own Pap Party, or finding an available clinic, you can find more information at https://fmwc.ca/events/pap-campaign/
We could not be more excited to have been a part of such an important campaign! Thank you to all the Queen’s University Obstetricians and Gynecologist residents and medical student volunteers who made this event possible.
Lauren Wilson, Katherine Rabicki (Queen’s Medicine Class of 2019), and Melissa Lorenzo (Queen’s Medicine Class of 2018)