Starting on Monday, women in Metro Vancouver worried about cervical cancer can walk into one of 12 clinics to have a free pap test without an appointment. It's part of the launch of Pap week, organized by the BC Cancer Agency.

Currently, doctors recommend all women to have regular pap tests after they become sexually active. But statistics show more than a quarter of women aren't doing that, despite the fact studies show the pap test has played a vital role in decreasing cervical cancer in British Columbia.

"In B.C., we've decreased the incidence of cervical cancer by 70 per cent in the past three or four decades since we've introduced regular pap testing." said Dr. Dirk Van Niekerk from the Cervical Cancer Screen Program.

"Also the pap test diagnoses abnormal cells before they become cancerous."

It's hoped this pilot project will be expanded next year to more clinics -- and pap week will become an annual event.

Dr. Rhonda Low's additional comments:

After a woman becomes sexually active, she should have a pap smear every year for the first three years and then if these results are all normal, she can be tested every two years up to the age of 69. With so many people having a hard time finding a family physician, this pilot project at least gives women the opportunity to have an important screening test.

The best way to prevent cancer of the cervix is to stop smoking. Stats show this greatly increases the risk -- using condoms can protect against getting infected with the human papilloma virus known to cause cervical cancer. Seventy per cent of cases can be prevented by the new human papilloma virus vaccine, so this is something that young woman may want to consider getting. Still 30 per cent of cases are not prevented by the vaccine so that's why the best way to prevent cancer of the cervix for all sexually active women is to get regular pap smears.

Click on the Cervical Cancer Screening Program to find a participating clinic in Metro Vancouver.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Dr. Rhonda Low