Pap Smear

A pap smear can be a lifesaving screening method for cervical cancer. The purpose of a pap smear is to detect any abnormal cells that might become cancerous as well as detect infections or human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted virus which can also increase the likelihood of cancer developing.

Why pap smears are necessary

Cervical cancer is the second leading the of cancer among women in South Africa, after breast cancer, due to the high rates of HPV in the country. It is recommended to attend to your first pap smear between the ages of 18-20 and then every three years after that.

How to prepare for a pap smear for the most accurate results

  • Avoid vaginal sex for two days before your smear
  • Avoid using tampons, vaginal creams, lubricants and vaginal medication for at least two days before your pap smear
  • It is recommended to schedule your appointment for after your period ends

What to expect during a pap smear

When attending your smear test, you will be asked to undress from the waist down and a gown will be provided for privacy. You will lay on your back, with your feet elevated. Dr Tshimanga will then insert a speculum, which is a metal instrument that will open your cervix. Using a small brush, Dr Tshimanga will collect a few cells from your cervix, which will then be sent off for testing.

The procedure is not painful, though you may feel some pressure and discomfort, but the smear itself takes only a few minutes and will be over before you know it.

What to expect after a Pap smear

Dr Tshimanga will send your results by telephone or email. If there have been any abnormal cells detected, he will suggest a follow-up appointment to investigate further and possibly refer you for a colonoscopy to rule out cervical cancer.

Not all abnormal pap smear results indicate cervical cancer - it can also be related to life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause and an infection.