Pap smears

So you’ve heard about Pap smears but you aren’t really sure what they are or if you need one? Well read all about it below…

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is basically an internal examination where a nurse/doctor (at your doctor’s surgery or at a clinic) takes cells from your cervix (neck of the womb) in order to test they are healthy. Unhealthy cells can turn into cervical cancer.

What does a Pap smear do?

A Pap smear checks for changes in the cells of your cervix. It is a screening procedure to find early warning signs that cancer might develop in the future.

Having regular pap smear tests is important because it means any abnormal (unusual) cells can be found at an early stage and easily treated if necessary.

It does not check for other problems in the reproductive system and it is not a check for STIs.

How do they do a Pap smear?

  • The doctor or nurse gently inserts an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, so that the cervix can be seen. This may be uncomfortable, but should not hurt.
  • A sample of cells is then collected from the surface of cervix using a small brush and spread ('smeared') on a glass slide.
  • The cells on the slide are sent to a laboratory where they are looked at, and a report is sent to the doctor or nurse within one to two weeks.
  • You may be asked to return to see the doctor or nurse for the results. Sometimes you might be able to phone for the results or you might get sent a letter.

Who should have Pap smear tests?

The general rule is that once you’ve had sex for the first time, you should have one within 2 years of that time, even if you no longer have sex.

It only takes a few minutes and could save your life

Why should I get one?

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and curable of all cancers. But it is the eighth most common cancer in Australian women. It is estimated that up to 90% of the most common type of cervical cancer may be prevented if cell changes are detected and treated early.

More than 1,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, and three out of four women who develop it have never had a pap smear, or not had one within the two-yearly interval.

Does it hurt?

It might be embarrassing, but it's not painful - most girls can hardly feel it. If it does hurt, tell your doctor.