A pap smear exam is a screening procedure for cervical cancer, which is the second most common type of cancer among women in the Philippines. In the country, 37.8 million women are at risk for cervical cancer. Each year, an estimated 7,897 women are diagnosed with it –– while 4,052 die from it. 

Around 99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. Cervical cancer develops from the opening of the uterus from the vagina.

When caught in its early stages, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer. You can prevent it by getting an HPV vaccine (Gardasil 4-valent, single dose or triple dose, or Gardasil 9-valent, single dose or triple dose) as early as age 9 and pap smears starting the age of 30 based on the new guidelines.

Women aged 21-29 with abnormal symptoms or a history of cervico-vaginal infections do not necessarily have to go for routine screening, but may consult with an OBGYN who may recommend further cervical testing (pap smear or HPV testing), to assess the risk for cervical cancer.

Pap smears may seem intimidating, so we’re here to help! Read on to learn more about its importance and how to prepare for your first one. 

 

What happens during a pap smear?

During a pap smear, a small brush is used to take a sample of the surface of the cervix and the area around it. The sample will then be tested by your doctor to see if your cells are normal or have any abnormalities.

Aside from cervical cancer, it can also help detect other conditions such as infections or inflammations. Pap smears can catch unusual cells early on, thus preventing cervical cancer. They are recommended for those aged 25 and above, regardless of sexual activity, and may be requested together with HPV co-testing since they get the same specimen.

Things to avoid before your pap smear exam

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Douching
  • Vaginal medicines
  • Creams or jellies
  • Scheduling it during your menstruation

Avoiding these things will help your doctor easily identify any unusual cells or abnormalities.

 

During the pap smear exam

  • Come into the clinic wearing comfortable attire.
  • You will be asked to either undress completely or only from the waist down. Your OBGYN will help you put your legs in stirrups.
  • A speculum will be gently inserted into your vagina. It will help hold your vaginal walls apart so your OBGYN can easily take the sample needed for this test using a soft brush and a spatula.
  • Don’t worry! This procedure usually doesn’t hurt, but may be slightly uncomfortable. Your OBGYN will also guide you every step of the way and ensure that you are at ease.

After the pap smear exam

  • You can go about your day without any problems or restrictions after getting a pap smear!
  • Your OBGYN will inform you when you’ll be able to get your results so that you know what to expect.

 

If you have any questions or concerns about your first pap smear, please do not hesitate to reach out to your OBGYN. Make sure to book your HPV shots, and book Annual Well Woman Packages (inclusive of pap smears) on mykindred.co!