Papsmears are an important screening tool for women to protect against cervical cancer, a potentially deadly cancer of the cervix, part of the female reproductive system that separates the uterus from the vagina.
It’s not something any woman looks forward to, but it is something that is important for your health and does not have to be uncomfortable if done properly by a respectful doctor or nurse.
Cervical cancer refers to cancer of the cervix. It is caused almost exclusively by a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is an infection which is spread by sexual contact, and is the same virus which can cause genital warts.
However, most of the time the virus does not cause warts and does not have symptoms at all (meaning you could have it without knowing). If HPV is left in the reproductive system untreated, it can cause cervical cancer.
Thankfully, a vaccine has been introduced for HPV called Gardasil, which is administered to all girls in high-school, which will drastically cut the rates of cervical cancer. However it does not cover all strains of HPV, so papsmears are still necessary.
What does the Papsmear test for?
A papsmear involves taking a small sample of the cervix for testing. Previously, the papsmear would test the cells of the cervix for any irregularity. However, a new test has been introduced which now tests for the presence of HPV itself, which means that papsmears can now be down less regularly.
Who needs a papsmear?
Under the new guidelines, papsmears are recommended for women between the ages of 25 to 74, regardless of their vaccination status. If the results are negative for HPV, women will not need another papsmear for 5 years (previously, papsmears for recommended from a younger age and were required every 2 years, but the new testing has changed this.)
What if my papsmear is abnormal?
If your papsmear comes back positive for HPV, another test will be done which looks at the state of the cervix cells. If this is normal, then you should come back for another HPV test in a year’s time before returning to normal testing. If it is abnormal, then you should see a gynaecologist (a specialist in the female reproductive system) who will do further tests on you. You may require a small operation to remove the abnormality as it may be pre-cancerous. Don’t worry though, this is why we do the test!
What if I don’t feel comfortable about getting a papsmear?
It is understandable that you may feel hesitant about getting a papsmear, as they can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable. However, it is an important test for your health. Discuss your feelings with your doctor/nurse before the procedure and tell us if you feel uncomfortable at all during the procedure. We are professionals and will do our best to keep you as comfortable as possible!
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
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