What is a Pap Test? 

Pap smear was named after Dr Papanicolaou. He discovered that cells in the cervix (neck of womb) change in appearance before they become cancerous. It is a screening test to see early changes in cell that may develop into cervical cancer.Pap smear does not diagnosing cancer, but help to find early changes which might turn into cancer.

The Pap smear is a simple test that does not require anaesthetic or medications. Cells are collected from the cervix and spread onto a slide, fixed with alcohol and examined under a microscope. Further tests will be needed to see if treatment is required. 

 

Where can I have a Pap smear?

You can have a Pap smear at 

General Practice 

Community or Women’s Health Centre

Family Planning or Sexual Health Clinic

Your Gynaecologist Office

 

Am I at risk of cervical Cancer?

If you have a cervix and had sex at some time in your life you are at risk of cervical cancer. 

Cervical cancer risk increases with age with half the new cases diagnosed each year are in women over 50 years of age as they are less likely than younger women to have regular Pap smears.

More women over 50 years of age die from cervical cancer because their cancer is diagnosed later when treatment is more difficult.

 

Are the symptoms of cervical cancer obvious? 

Early stages of cervical cancer have no symptoms. Pap smear then is valuable as it picks early disease.

Late stages can present with postcoital bleed(after sex), postmenopausal bleed (after the change), offensive vaginal discharge, blood stained vaginal discharge and pelvic pain.

 

Does Human Papilloma Virus HPV (Wart Virus) cause cervical cancer?

HPV is transmitted through sex. Body immune system clears most cases of in 10-12 months. Pap smear can detect HPV.  The wart virus can cause changes in the cervix if untreated can progress to cervical cancer.

 

Does Pap smear prevent 100 per cent of cervical cancer? 

No.  Pap smear has limitations like any other screen test. 

Pap smears every two years can help prevent up to 90 per cent of the most common type of cervical cancer. 

If smear is difficult to read because of excess blood or mucus or not enough cells a repeat smear is required

 

How often should I have a Pap smear? 

Every two years. Screening should start within two years of first sexual intercourse. If you had previous abnormal smear you may require Pap more often. The advantage of having a Pap smear every year is small as the most common type of cervical cancer can take up to 10 years to develop.

 

Do I still need a Pap smear after the Change (Menopause) ?

You are at increased risk of getting cervical cancer after menopause and you should continue having Pap smear every 2 years.

 

Should I have a Pap smear if I had a hysterectomy?

If you still have a cervix (i.e. had subtotal hysterectomy) you will need to have Pap smear every 2 years.  

If your cervix was removed at hysterectomy (i.e. had total hysterectomy) and you had previously had abnormal smears you will still need to have Pap smear.

If your cervix was removed at hysterectomy (i.e. had total hysterectomy) and you had never had abnormal smears you may not need to have Pap smear.

 

Should women with a disability have Pap smears?

Yes, all women with a cervix who have ever had sex are at risk of cervical cancer. This apply to physical (including visual and hearing) and/or intellectual disabilities. 

 

I am 70 years old, Do I need to have Pap smear?

If  you have had two normal Pap smear in the last 5 years, you do not have to keep having Pap smear.  

If you are over 70 years and have never had a Pap smear can request a Pap smear.

 

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