7 months ago
Thandi Mlotshwa is a smart Mzansi woman who’s planning for her next pap smear. Photo by Thabo Monama  ~ 

CERVICAL cancer is the second most common cancer affecting South African women.

While it’s easily cured in its early stages, women only learn about it when it has already turned deadly.

SunHealth spoke to some women to learn what they know about this disease.

Thandi Mlotshwa said: “A friend told me about it, but I’m unsure how doctors treat it.

“I entrust much of the process to doctors, but I do know that I’m always worried from when I go for a checkup to the moment I get my results.”

Lerato Chauke said: “When I hear about cervical cancer I think when was the last time I had a pap smear.”

The top pap smear questions

- When should I get a pap smear?

Women need to get a pap smear every year from when they turn 21 or become sexually active.

From 30 years and older, women need a pap smear every three years.

Avoid getting the test when you’re menstruating as this makes the exam much more difficult to perform.

Why do I need a pap smear?

Cervical cancer is linked to earlier infections of the human papilloma virus. There are many different types of HPV, but all can be sexually transmitted. The first stage of testing a pap smear is checking for HPV.

The presence of HPV is a strong indicator of future cervical cancer.

The second part of the test is the check for changes of cervix cells.

Changes in cells can be harmless, but if there are too many changed cells or the changes are specific to dangerous outcomes, it’s an important sign.

Remember: Cervical cancer mostly goes undetected in its early stage because it causes no discomfort or pain.

How are pap smears taken?

While you lie back on a special table, your doctor inserts a speculum in your vagina. The speculum lets the doctor see your cervix, the entrance to your uterus. Your doctor then uses another instrument, a special brush or spatula, which is gently swiped over your cervix. The sample is sent to a laboratory for testing.

Does it hurt?

Pap smears may be embarrassing but should not hurt. A few moments of awkwardness now can save you many years of misery and pain in the future.

After your sample is tested, your doctor will call you with the results and advise you if any additional procedures are needed.

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