There have been many myths surrounding cervical screening and something that is quick, painless in most cases and crucial to gynaecological health has become a medical bogeyman. We want to change that and make women’s health a topic that can be discussed freely, without fear and get more women attending their vital appointments.
What is a pap smear and what can you expect?
Cervical screening, or pap smears, is a quick and simple test to check for changes in the cells of the cervix. An instrument called a speculum is used to open the vagina to look at the cervix. A few cells are taken from the cervix, which is sent off for testing. A pap smear can be mildly uncomfortable for some women and there may be some spotting afterwards. For the vast majority of women it is about as conversation-worthy as a sneeze that just won’t come and is never spoken about. Perhaps this is why the very few negative stories are exaggerated and amplified so much.
What do pap smears look for and how often should they be done?
All women aged between 18 and 70 should have a pap smear at least every two years.
Some women over 30 who have had three normal pap smear results in a row could have them less often. However, young women in particular need to understand the importance of having these tests. Contrary to popular belief a pap smear does not detect cancer but it does check for abnormal cells and HPV (human papillomavirus) in the cervix.
The results of a smear can determine if any further medical attention is needed. Young women concerned about the procedure or unaware of what it actually entails are avoiding these vital check-ups and that can cause problems down the road as potentially harmful cells are left to their own devices rather than stopped in their tracks.
What does an abnormal pap smear result mean?
It is natural to feel anxious if your pap smear result is abnormal and the not wanting to get bad news is another reason so many young women are avoiding booking in their pap smears. However it’s valuable to know that in most cases abnormal Pap smear results do not result in cancer – indeed less than one per cent of abnormalities become cancerous.
The majority of abnormal results result in further tests to keep an eye on changes. Many of these abnormal cells will go back to normal on their own but some need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous which prevents almost all cases of cervical cancer and can be performed during a routine appointment.
Don’t be afraid anymore
The view of many health professionals about the fear of pap smears could inadvertently be perpetuating it. To the medical mind it can seem totally irrational to be scared of something so innocuous but so crucially important to gynaecological care. At Hunter’s Women’s Health we understand that the fear is entirely rational because like all fears it is rooted in the unknown. We want young women, and women of all ages, to take their pap smears seriously and that is why we take their fears seriously. Our sample takers are trained to understand your concerns and operate in an embarrassment-free and judgement-free environment. If you are nervous please talk to us about it and we will do everything we can to put you at ease. If discomfort is worrying you we can use smaller instruments.
We encourage you to book your all-important biennial pap smear to keep on top of any changes to your cervical cells. If you are apprehensive about coming along we also encourage you to bring a friend or family member who will be welcome to sit in reception. Why not speak to our friendly receptionists about booking a group of you all in on the same day? You all want long, healthy lives and you can empower yourselves with a group getting over your fear session.
You don’t have to be afraid of pap smears, take control and book yours in now.