FAQs on Screening for Cervical Cancer

Cancer Screening FAQs (Pap Smear Test for Cervical Cancer)

faq on cervical cancer screening

What is Cervical Cancer? 

A woman's cervix is located at the lower part of the womb. Sometimes, changes can occur in these cells and in many cases, the cells return to normal on their own. In some cases, the cells change in an abnormal way and develop into cervical cancer

Cervical cancer can be prevented if these abnormal changes are detected and treated in its early stages. Regular Pap smear tests can help to detect cervical cancer.

Is the Pap Smear Procedure Painful?

You may feel some discomfort or pain. It helps if you try to relax when the speculum is inserted. If you feel pain during the process, inform your doctor or nurse immediately.

How Reliable is the Pap Smear?

Like other screening tests, it is not 100-percent accurate. It may not always be possible to detect early cell changes in the cervix. If you experience any symptoms such as bleeding when you are not having your period or after menopause, or unusual or foul-smelling discharge from the vagina, please consult your doctor immediately.

If I Have No Family History of Cancer, Do I Still Need to Go for a Pap Smear?

Yes. Even if you have no family history of cancer, you might still be at risk for cervical cancer.

Can I Have a Pap Smear If I Am Having My Menses?

You cannot be tested during your period as blood cells that are shed during your period may affect the accuracy of your Pap smear result. Make an appointment 14 days after the start of your period.

Do I Still Need a Pap Smear If I Have Gone Through the Menopause?

Yes. The risk of getting cervical cancer increases with age.

A woman who has had sexual intercourse and has never had a Pap smear should go for screening despite her age. However, a menopausal woman who goes for regular screening may be discharged at 69 years of age if her smear taken at this point in time is negative and the previous smear within the last three years was negative. Please consult your doctor if you are unsure.

I Am 70 Years Old. Do I Still Need to Go for a Pap Smear?

If you have not had a Pap smear in the last three years, you should speak to your doctor to check if you should go for the screening.

Do I Need a Pap Smear If I Have Had a Hysterectomy?

You may not need a Pap smear if you have had a total hysterectomy i.e. the uterus and cervix have both been removed for a non-cancerous condition, such as heavy bleeding or fibroids. You should have one Pap smear done after your hysterectomy. If you did not have one or are unsure, you should check with your doctor. 

Do I Need a Pap Smear If I Feel Healthy?

Yes. You may not experience any symptoms or pain, but only a Pap smear can detect changes in the cervix even before abnormal cervical cells become cancerous. You are encouraged to make it a habit to go for a Pap smear once every three years even if you feel healthy.

Do I Need a Pap Smear If I Am Vaccinated Against the HPV?

Yes, you should go for a Pap smear every three years even if you have been vaccinated.

About 30 percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) sub-types which the vaccine does not protect against. In other words, the vaccines do not protect against all cancer-causing HPV sub-types. 

Going for regular Pap smears is still your best protection against cervical cancer.


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