Did you know that cervical cancer counts as one of the top 10 cancers among women in Singapore? Yet, it is a very preventable cancer – making regular screenings (normally in the form of a Pap smear) all the more important.
What Does a Pap Smear Do?
A Pap smear is regarded as a routine screening for cervical cancer. It can detect abnormal, pre-cancerous cell changes in the cervix before they even turn malignant – giving your gynaecologist ample time to monitor you closely for a period of time to see if it clears up on its own (as the majority of cases do); or opt to remove these cells.
Who Needs a Pap Smear?
If you have been sexually active before, and between 25 and 29 years old, you are encouraged to go for a Pap smear once every three years, if your test result comes back normal.
If you are between 30 to 65 years old, your gynaecologist may recommend that you take either a Pap smear only, or a HPV test only, or a Pap smear along with a HPV test (co-testing).
If you are above 65 years old, your gynaecologist may decide that you no longer need to be screened, if you have had normal test results for many years, and you do not have a history of precancer of the cervix in the past; or you have already had your cervix removed.
How is a Pap Smear Done?
A Pap smear may be uncomfortable, but not painful, and is also a very quick procedure.
- You will first lie on a table and prop your legs up
- Your gynaecologist will then gently insert a speculum into the vagina in order to open it slightly and allowing them to see the cervix
- Cells are then gently scraped off the cervix and sent to a lab for testing (to determine the nature of the cells)
If your results come back normal, you will have nothing to worry about until three years later (or as otherwise advised) for your next routine screening.
If, however, your results come back abnormal, further testing and treatment may be needed; which your gynaecologist will advise you on, depending on your specific condition and background.