No, No, No! Not the èko, ògì or whatever name you call it in your town. I’m referring to the screening test that helps to detect abnormal changes in the cervix (the junction between the uterus and the vagina). These precancerous changes can be treated and stopped from progressing into advanced cancer. Other diseases, such as infections can also be detected and treated. Pap smear is a simple procedure, named after the Greek doctor, Georgios Papanikolaou, who invented it. It is inexpensive but can prevent up to 80% of deaths from cervical cancer.
*Who needs to do it?
All sexually active women between ages 21-65 years.
*Where can I get it done?
Any hospital or health centre offering reproductive health services. It can be done in a doctor’s office or any other space designated for it within the hospital. It can be done by a gynaecologist but some nurses are also trained to do the procedure.
*How do I prepare?
Book an appointment and obtain detailed information on what to prepare before going for it (including the cost, if any). Two days before your appointment, you should avoid intercourse, douching and insertion of creams or ointments into the vagina.
*How is it done?
A lubricated metallic or plastic speculum is inserted into the vagina to expand the area, revealing the cervix. After visual inspection, a spatula is used to collect cells and mucus from the cervix. This is smeared onto a glass slide or placed in a specimen bottle for transfer to the laboratory, where the cells are examined under the microscope. The result/report should be ready within 3-6weeks.
*How often should it be done?
If you have had a normal result, your next tests should be done at 5 years’ interval. If the result shows some abnormalities, you will need a more frequent follow up.
REMEMBER, prevention is better than cure!