Great Health: Importance of The Pap Test | Great Health Guide
Great Health: Importance of The Pap Test

Great Health: Importance of The Pap Test

“Importance of The Pap Smear Test” written by Dr. Ljiljana Miljkovic-Petkovic and to be published in the upcoming issue of Great Health Guide (June 2016). This article highlights the importance of regular check-ups for women for early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. Read other great health articles on our website. Great Health Guide is  a hub of expert-inspired resources empowering busy women to embody health beyond image … purpose beyond measure.

Great Health: Importance of The Pap Smear Test written by Dr. Ljiljana Miljkovic-Petkovic

Having a measure of control over a problem is a nice thing to have. Though cancer is a devastating issue which touches lives the world over every day, it is somewhat comforting to know that, in the case of cervical cancer at least, there are measures you can take to minimise the risk of it impacting on your life. This brings us to the topic of the Pap smear or the Pap test and why it’s so important to make it a regular part of your healthcare regime. 

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in women, making it no trifling matter for the health industry. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher on that list, is thanks to initiatives such as a Pap smear, which can have a huge effect on the survival rates of women who encounter the disease. Cervical cancer affects more than 500,000 people worldwide every year but when caught early the survival rate is very high, which is why Pap smears are so important. 

Prevention is better than a cure:

A Pap smear can detect precancerous cells before they develop into anything nastier. This makes them much easier to treat and the survival rate of women who discover cervical cancer in this precancerous stage approaches 100%. The treatment of these early symptoms is much less intense, much less traumatic and far more successful than treatment at a later stage of cancer. 

A Quick and Simple test:

Obtaining a Pap smear is not a lengthy, difficult or painful process, taking just minutes out of your day once every two years. Finding the time to make an appointment could be lifesaving. When the procedure is so easy there truly is no good reason not to do so. 


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Is Once Enough?

No test is 100% accurate and the same is true of the Pap test. It is possible that a single test will miss the early precancerous signs, which is why it’s essential to have regular check-ups. These don’t have to be particularly frequent: current recommendations are once every two years for women over 21, but they should occur with regularity. Cancer can occur at any time and leaving more than two years between tests will give any abnormalities in the cervix, a greater chance to develop past precancerous forms. 

What’s the Process?

The first concern for many women is whether or not the procedure will be painful or uncomfortable. The good news is that getting a Pap smear should not be in the slightest bit painful: if it is then you should inform your practitioner and ask them to modify their technique. Whether you find the procedure uncomfortable or not, will depend largely on how relaxed you are in such an environment. Some women may find the experience intimidating or embarrassing, but the truth is that the practitioner performing the exam is a trained professional performing a potentially lifesaving treatment; there is no reason to view it as anything other than routine. Of course, your own personality will have a large effect on how you find the process, but it’s important to keep in mind that it could save your life. 

During the exam, samples of cells are taken from both inside and outside the cervix and these will be tested to check for abnormalities. A cervical brush is placed within a speculum to gather cells and allows the genital area to be properly inspected. The cells are then smeared onto a glass slide for microscopic inspection by a pathologist. The sampling of cells takes just a few moments and while the sensation may not be entirely pleasant, it will certainly not be painful. 

 A Great Success Story:

Pap smears are one of the greatest success stories when it comes to cancer prevention. In Australia, since organised screening began in 1991, incidences of cervical cancer have dropped by an average of 4.5% per year. This is a remarkable achievement that can be maintained into the future simply by taking it upon yourself to undergo regular screening. Every year, 1200 women are saved from cervical cancer through regular Pap screening. Make sure that you give yourself the best possible chance of being among the number of women saved from this devastating cancer. 

Author of this article:
Dr Ljiljana Miljkovic-Petkovic has vast experience in obstetrics and gynaecology and has been treating and assisting women throughout their pregnancy journeys for over 15 years. Dr Ljiljana earned her MD, specialty training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Ph.D. at the University of Belgrade in former Yugoslavia. She currently resides in Newcastle, practicing at her own private clinic.

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