The pap smear- supposedly quick and easy but the idea of it is not entirely attractive to women in South Africa. Luckily, Marie Stopes South Africa takes the scary and unknown out of pap smears, to make the experience whole lot easier. After all, it can be lifesaving.
Sister (Sr) Thandeka Mabaso-Radebe, a nurse at Marie Stopes South Africa has shared all there is to know about pap smears, explaining that the test is not difficult for the client. “A speculum is inserted into the vagina, to hold the walls of your vagina apart. The nurse or doctor then uses one or two brushes to collect cells from your cervix”, says Sr Thandeka. The cells are then sent to a lab for testing, to see if there are any abnormalities, such as cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among South African women, after breast cancer. Ideally, sexually active women should start regular screenings at age 20. Pap smears should occur every 3 years, and if an HPV screening is included, women should have the screening every 5 years. It is also recommended that women living with HIV schedule a pap smear screening as soon as they have been diagnosed, and continue regular screening every year, or with an HPV test every 3 years. Should your pap smear results be positive, your healthcare provider would advise how often to attend screenings.
Pap Smear screenings are recommended to be a part of your life-long sexual healthcare. However, Sr Thandeka advises going for a pap smear if you experience any foul-smelling discharge or bleeding in between your regular period. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for is pain/and or bleeding during and after sexual intercourse, or bleeding after menopause.
There’s also no need to skip pap smear screenings if you are pregnant. Sr Thandeka says the procedure is safe for pregnant women, “The brushing is just at the cervix, and will not affect your baby at all.”
Leading up to your appointment, Sr Thandeka advised scheduling the appointment at a time when you are not on your period, adding that you should not have sexual intercourse at least two days before your appointment as any fluids may wash away any abnormal cells in the cervix and produce incomplete results. You may experience light spotting after your appointment- but it is nothing to be concerned about. If you do experience any heavier bleeding, report it to your Doctor immediately.
To keep your cervix healthy in between appointments, Sr Thandeka says that the best care is condom use. “Using a condom is the best way to remain safe and ensure a healthy cervix.”
If you’re experiencing any symptoms, haven’t had a pap smear before, or are due for your routine visit, book an appointment on our website here, or call our contact center on 0800 11 77 85.