Having a regular Pap smear is the best way of preventing cervical cancer by detecting changes in the cervix (neck of the womb). It is a screening tool to detect the early warning signs that cancer may develop.
These early signs are not always cancer, but if not checked or treated, they may develop into cancer. These signs do not always show symptoms such as bleeding or pain, so if you are well, it is still recommended that you have regular Pap smears.
No drugs or anaesthetics are required and the Pap smear only takes a few minutes. If abnormal changes are found at screening, further tests will be done to see if treatment is needed
When to have a Pap smear
If you are over 18 and have had sex, you should have regular Pap smears, even if you have ceased to have sex or if you have been vaccinated against cervical cancer.
If it has been less than 2 years since your last Pap smear your doctor may advise you to have another Pap smear if you show symptoms such as bleeding after sex, bleeding between periods or after menopause
You should continue having regular 2 yearly Pap smears until you are 70. After 70, your doctor will advise how often you will require them.
Even if you have had a hysterectomy you may still need to have regular Pap smears
Having a Pap smear
It is important you feel comfortable with your doctor and you can request any one of our doctors who are experienced in this minor procedure. Even if your usual doctor is male, you can request to have the smear performed by our female doctor if you feel more comfortable with a woman. You may find it helpful to first meet with the doctor to discuss any concerns you may have about the procedure. You can even bring a friend, family member or partner with you to your appointment if you feel that you require their support.
Once you have chosen the doctor you feel comfortable with, call to make an appointment. Please let the receptionist know that the appointment is for a Pap smear as you may need to book a longer appointment.
How a Pap smear is taken
Your doctor will ask you some routine health questions. Feel free to ask any questions about the Pap smear or your general health.
You will be asked to undress in private from the waist down, a sheet will be given to you to cover yourself and then you will lie down on an examination table. The doctor will use a speculum to inspect your cervix by gently inserting the speculum into your vagina. Cells are then collected from the cervix with a small brush and smeared onto a glass slide. This only takes a few seconds and once this is done, the speculum is removed and the Pap smear is complete. A Pap smear may be uncomfortable but should not hurt or be painful.
The cervical cells are then sent to a laboratory. The cells are examined under a microscope to see whether they are normal. It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks for your doctor to receive your results from the laboratory.
Medicare will cover the cost of a Pap smear.
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