Pap smear in Singapore – should i get one?
What is pap smear?
Pap smear is a simple bedside procedure that can be performed by your doctor. The procedure involves introducing an instrument known as a speculum carefully into the vagina. The doctor will obtain a tissue sample from the cervix with a brush for further testing.
The purpose of pap smear screening is to detect precancerous changes in the cervix. The sample of cervical cells will then be sent to the lab to be reviewed under a microscope for early abnormal changes of cervical cells. The main intention to treat and prevent further progression of cervical cancer.
Frequency of Pap Smear
The Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends ladies who are sexually active to have routine pap smear from the age of 25 years onwards. A routine pap smear should be done every three years until the age of 65, provided the findings have been normal. However, one may be advised for more frequent pap smear, even up to 3-6 months in specific individuals.
What should I do if I have an abnormal Pap Smear results?
Abnormal pap smear result does not equate to having cervical cancer. It just means you have abnormal cells that need further evaluation from your doctor. Abnormal cells can commonly be caused by infection or cervical cell changes due to hormonal changes after menopause. These can be treated with antibiotics or hormonal cream.
In some abnormal pap smears, your doctor may advise you for further colposcopy examination.
Colposcopy is a simple outpatient procedure performed by your trained doctor or gynecologist. A colposcope is an instrument that shines a beam of lights into the cervix and magnifies the area. Similar to pap smear, your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina for visualization. The doctor will then perform a biopsy over the affected area for further cell evaluation in the lab.
What happens if I have abnormal cervical cells?
Your gynecologist will discuss different treatment options for precancerous changes of the cervix.
In mild cases, you may be offered close monitoring with more frequent and regular repeat of pap smear or colposcopy.
In women with concerns of early cervical cancer changes with small invasions of the abnormal cells, your gynecologist may offer treatment options such as:
- Ablative treatment in the form of Laser or cryotherapy
- LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure)
- Cone biopsy
Do not hesitate to discuss further the treatment with your doctor.
Is Pap Smear necessary with the completion of Cervical Cancer Vaccination?
There are over 150 strands of HPV viruses. Although the vaccination reduces the risks of cervical cancer, it only covers the common nine strains of the HPV. Ladies who have completed HPV 9 (Gardasil-9) vaccination are still advisable for a routine pap smear when they are sexually active.
Cervical cancer awareness
Cervical cancer is the 9th most common cancer among women in Singapore. Every year, there are approximately 300 Singaporean women diagnosed with cervical cancer. The cervix is a structure at the lower narrowed end of the uterus. It opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when the cervical cells grow in an uncontrolled, abnormal fashion, leading to damage and invasion of other parts of the body.
Early cervical cancer treatment is curable; hence, cervical cancer awareness is paramount.