Okay, so getting a pap smear is definitely not our definition of fun but its totally fundamental that we get it done. With as many as 7 735 new cases of cervical cancer recorded annually, it’s now the second leading cause of female cancer related deaths in SA.
One of the downsides of going for pap smear is having to go to the dreaded gynaecologist, but FYI you can have it done at your GP!
What is a pap smear?
A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix- that’s the lower end of the uterus. The doctor will gently scrape away cells so that they may be examined for abnormal cell growth.
Going for the recommended test gives you a greater chance of surviving cervical cancer as it helps with early detection and whether you are at risk of developing cervical cancer in the future.
A screening pap smear can help with early detection of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), and cervical infections, the leading cause of cervical cancer among women, explains Dr Ina de Beer, a general practitioner at Intercare Woodhill.
But do I really need to have one?
Yes. Women over the age of 21 should have the test down at least once every three years. The test can ultimately save your life, so its best not to avoid it. For many women, they avoid going to the doctor because they feel a bit uncomfortable or unprepared. Here are some key things you need to know.
How it’s done
Your doctor will insert a device called a speculum into your vagina. This keeps the vaginal walls open and allows for access to the cervix. The doctor then scraps a small number of cells from the cervix, we won’t lie, this is uncomfortable but should not be painful.
The cells are then sent to the lab for analysis. It’s not uncommon to experience some discomfort or light bleeding after the test but if it persists for longer than a day, be sure to let your doctor know.What to do before
Be sure to let your doc know if you’re menstruating as this may affect the accuracy of the test. Also, try to avoid sex, spermicide and douching (never douche, it’s not needed) the day before the test, as this may also interfere with results.
All tests go better when you’re relaxed, so try your best to stay calm and not to think too much about the test, it will be over before you know it.
Where to get it done
Pap smears are usually done at the gynaecologist but recently more doctors are offering the service at their offices too. If your GP does not offer it just yet, you can find an Intercare GP nearest to you.
“Many women don’t realise that they don’t need to make an appointment with a gynaecologist to have a screening Pap smear done,” said Dr. de Beer.
“General practitioners at all the Intercare medical centres are well trained to perform Pap smears for early detection of harmful cells.”
According to Dr. de Beer, the screening procedure is not painful at all.
“It might be a little uncomfortable, but this is a relatively small inconvenience weighed against your lifetime risk and the investment you make for your future health. Your doctor will explain everything to you in a kind and professional manner and before you know it everything is over,” she explains.
This article was originally published on Women's Health.