The words Pap Smear can make a lot of women nervous and uncomfortable. But it’s a very important test that may just save your life. Moms, here’s why you should get a Pap smear regularly.
In this article, you’ll read:
- What is a Pap smear and how can it help?
- What age can women get a Pap smear?
- How often should you get one?
We know and understand, ladies: a speculum looks like a torture device and the thought of a stranger examining your vagina is off-putting, to say the least. But if these are the main reasons why you have been delaying that pap smear, you might need to think again.
According to Healthline, a pap smear, also called a pap test is a procedure that tests for precancerous or cancerous cells on your cervix, the opening of your uterus. It helps determine if there are abnormal cells present before it can develop into something life-threatening.
“It is a screening test to check for changes in the cervix which may indicate that it may go on to develop cancer,” explains Dr. Cheryl Kam, a family physician from Complete Healthcare International in Singapore.
The beauty of a Pap smear test is that it is a simple and reliable way of detecting cervical cancer early on, which makes it possible for the cancer to be successfully treated.
So if you are having second thoughts about getting this procedure, here are three compelling reasons you and other women close to you should have a Pap smear done.
Why should you get a Pap smear?
1. It is life saving
What is cervical cancer?
The cervix is part of a woman’s reproductive tract, and is located in the lower part of the womb. Dr. Kam explains that cells from this area of the body undergo constant change with a woman’s monthly cycle and, as a result, are prone to abnormal growths. Sometimes, these abnormal growths are diagnosed as cervical cancer.
What causes cervical cancer?
It has been found that chronic infection with a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV) leads to cervical cancer. HPV is found in most sexually active adults and is easily cleared by the immune system most of the time.
Dr. Kam explains that in some cases, though, the body does not clear this infection on its own, resulting in chronic infection. There are no symptoms for this infection, nor is there a treatment, but it is known to lead to higher risk of cervical cancer.
Other risk factors such as smoking can increase a woman’s chances of cervical cancer. The Mayo Clinic adds that having many sexual partners, early sexual activity, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and a weak immune system are also risk factors for cervical cancer.
There is a new test that can be done at the same time as a Pap smear, which will detect if you have a current HPV infection. If the pap smear is normal but there is a concurrent HPV infection, your doctor will arrange a more detailed camera test to look at the cervix.
On the other hand, if the HPV test is negative along with a normal Pap smear, you need not do a Pap smear for another five years. There is also a three-dose vaccine against the HPV virus that you could talk to your doctor about, says Dr. Kam.
2. It doesn’t hurt!
Have you been worried by how painful a Pap smear could be? It doesn’t hurt, ladies, which makes it all the more crucial to get one done (other than the fact that it is a potential life-saver!).
Dr. Kam explains that the procedure can be done for you by your family doctor or gynecologist. While it may be slightly uncomfortable, it should be a generally pain- and stress-free procedure.
How it is done
You’ll be asked to lie on the examination couch with your knees drawn up and apart. An instrument called a vaginal speculum is inserted into the vagina to help open the vaginal walls slightly. This exposes the cervix, which is the lower end of the womb that extends into and can be seen via the vagina.
A brush is then used to harvest some cells from the cervix, which, Dr. Kam says, you most probably will not feel. After this, the speculum is removed, and the Pap smear is over.
Your doctor may proceed to do a pelvic examination by gently inserting two gloved fingers into your vagina while placing his or her other hand on your stomach to check on the size, shape, and consistency of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
The cell sample, meanwhile, is smeared onto a glass slide or put into a container and sent to the laboratory to be examined under a microscope for any abnormalities.
According to Dr. Kam, depending on the lab used by your doctor, it may take anywhere from two days to two weeks to get the results. If the Pap smear results are not in the clear, your doctor will advise you on what your tailored plan for action is.
3. It is not expensive
Dr. Kam advises that you can also get a Pap smear done by your friendly family doctor, or your gynecologist. Prices range from P250 in public hospitals and P800-P1,000 in private hospitals for a simple smear test.
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Who should get a Pap smear?
All women 21 to 69 years old who have ever had intercourse are advised to have a Pap smear done at least once every three years.
However, the HPB advises you to see your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Irregular bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
Points to keep in mind before you go for your Pap smear
Getting a Pap smear done can be nerve-wracking for some women. Is there something you need to do or prepare to make sure this procedure goes smoothly? Here are some tips and
- Schedule your appointment two weeks after the start of your menstrual period.
- Avoid sexual intercourse 48 hours before the test.
- Do not use spermicides, vaginal creams, lubricant jellies, vaginal medications, or tampons two days before the test.
- Wear a two-piece outfit as you would need to undress from waist down.
- Try to relax during the test―if you are anxious you may tense up down there, making it hard for the doctor to insert the speculum.
Moms, we hope your fears about getting a Pap smear are now eased. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to consult your OB-gynecologist about it. Do schedule one without delay if you have never had one before and encourage your loved ones to get one done, too. One simple test can help you live a healthy life. You have to agree that it is worth the minor squirm factor involved!
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore