What is a pap smear?
Cervical screening, or pap smear, is a quick and simple test to check for changes in the cells of your cervix. Dr Ljiljana will use an instrument called a speculum to open your vagina and see your cervix. She will then take a few cells from inside the cervix which will be sent off for testing. A pap smear can be mildly uncomfortable for some women – there may be some spotting afterwards.
If you are close to your period or have had sex using a spermicide, lubricating jelly or a condom within 24 hours the chemicals in these products or your menstruation may affect the test so it’s best to avoid sex leading up to the smear and to come mid-cycle.
Who should get pap smears done and how often?
All women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active should have regular Pap smears even if they have been through menopause. Even if you have not been sexually active it is recommended you have a pap smear.
In general the test should be conducted every two years however it all depends on your age and your history. Some women over 30 who have had three normal pap smear results in a row could have them less often. Speak to Dr Ljiljana about your options.
What can pap smears detect?
Contrary to popular belief a pap smear does not detect cancer. Pap smears check for abnormal cells and HPV (human papillomavirus) in the cervix.
What does an abnormal pap smear result mean?
It is natural to feel anxious if your pap smear result is abnormal, however in most cases abnormal pap smear results do not mean you have cancer. In fact, less than one per cent of abnormalities become cancerous.
Usually abnormal results just means having another pap smear within the next 12 months or possibly having more tests to keep an eye on changes or decide on the best treatment. In some cases the cells may go back to normal on their own but in others the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous. Treating abnormal cells can prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer and can be performed by Dr Ljiljana during a routine appointment.
What follow up treatments are required?
Should further investigation be required Dr Ljiljana may perform a colposcopy (a special microscope) to examine the cervix and biopsy any abnormalities.
It is possible to combine a colposcopy with a surgical treatment called LLETZ (Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone) to remove abnormal cells from the cervix. Dr Ljiljana will remove these cells with a wire loop heated with an electric current (diathermy) and can do this procedure for you as a short day stay procedure in hospital.
This procedure is extremely quick (10-15 minutes), is usually done on an outpatient basis and heals well leaving only healthy tissue in your cervix.
Severe changes to your cervical cells or abnormalities could develop into something more serious if left untreated so it’s important to get regular pap smears to monitor your cervical health.
Dr Ljiljana invites you to book your all-important biennial pap smear at her Newcastle centre and keep on top of any changes to your cervical cells.