What is a pap smear and who needs them?
It is recommended that women (and transgender men) who have a cervix, start having Pap smears at age 18 or within two years of becoming sexually active (with a man or a woman) and then have one every two years after that.
This simple test is used to detect changes in the cells of cervix which can lead to cancer.
There is no need to have Pap smears earlier than 18, even if you start having sex earlier. Continue having pap smears until age 69, or until advised otherwise by your doctor.
When you have a Pap smear, a doctor or nurse will do a vaginal examination using a speculum. A speculum is an instrument that holds the walls of the vagina apart and allows the doctor or nurse to see the cervix. Cells are then collected from the cervix using a special brush or spatula. The sample is spread on a glass slide that is then sent to a laboratory for examination. The procedure is normally simple, painless and quick.
Not yet. After 2016, new screening guidelines and testing methods will be introduced. Until then, please continue to have a regular pap smear every two years.
You can make an appointment with your regular doctor, any other general practitioner, or Family Planning Tasmania. Choose the place where you would feel the most comfortable.
Most pap smears are normal. Only about one in 10 show an abnormality.
If your Pap smear result is abnormal it does NOT mean you have cervical cancer. Most abnormalities are caused by low grade infections or conditions that clear up naturally or are easily treated. For some abnormalities you may be referred to a gynaecologist (a specialist doctor in female reproductive health) for a more detailed examination.
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