It may never feel like the right time, but saddle up ladies!
What in the world is a Pap smear?
A Pap test is a screening procedure for abnormal growth in your cervix that is (or can be) cancerous in nature. The detection of these problematic cells at an early stage means that treatment can start pronto! Better to be safe than sorry, right?
What is the procedure like?
The first part of the process usually entails the (gentle) scraping away of the cells in your cervix. Before we all cringe at the thought of how invasive this sh*t is, take comfort in the fact that it will be over super quickly.
Your legs will be spread and will be held up by stirrups (contraptions that we all shudder at the thought of), like you’re about to give birth — but just breathe, and sing some T Swift in your head.
There will be some mild discomfort as the swab (kind of like a cotton bud) is swiped along your cervix, and that’s a part we can’t sugarcoat for you — it’s a slight (but brief) irritation, with some gentle poking about.
Then comes the testing part: the scooped up stuff is sent off to a lab where it will be tried for malignancy.
Expect a continued feeling of slight uneasiness after the test, or some light bleeding. Nothing to be alarmed about. If this persists past the day of the test, please contact your doctor.
How old do you have to be to get one?
The screening is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should treat yourself to one on your 21st birthday, but it’s something you should definitely be aware of and be scheduling at your earliest.
How often should you have a Pap smear done?
Depending on your preliminary results, your gyno will suggest when you should come back in. If the results are normal, you won’t need another one for three years. (Woo!)
An abnormal result may mean you need to get tested annually. Saying that, abnormal results don’t mean that you have cancer. It just means that your cells are a little weird (smoking, for instance, causes inconsistency in test results), and you may require a further round of testing (in the form of a colposcopy and a biopsy) to keep a closer eye on things for a while.
The good news?
Regardless of how often you need to get tested, the procedure is highly accurate and reduces cervical cancer rates by 80%.
The whole point of this procedure is to detect early so you can treat it.
So, let’s all just take a deep breath and relax. Sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
Here’s where you can get a Pap smear:
* The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka: 37/27, Bullers Lane, Colombo 07
* Hemas Hospital: Wattala, Thalawathugoda & Galle
* Ninewells Hospital: 55/1, Kirimandala Mawatha, Colombo 05
* Vindana Reproductive Health Centre: 9, Barnes Place, Colombo 07
* The Cancer Society: 37/25, Bullers Lane, Colombo 07 (This is offered during weekly clinics and is a free service.)
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