I love writing about beauty products on my site here, but there are some other things that affect us women, that I think we should all be aware of, and one of it is cervical cancer. I wrote about the HPV test before, and although cervical cancer isn’t as IT as breast cancer in terms of public awareness, we are seeing more and more information about it, both internationally and in Malaysia, which makes me happy because we do need to be aware of what can harm us and its not just our boobies.
With this firmly in mind, I went for my first Pap Smear test recently. I won’t provide you the gory details but you might want to keep reading if you have not gone for one and have been wondering what goes on during a Pap Smear.
What is the Pap Smear test?
The Pap Smear test is where a swab is taken of a woman’s cervical walls to test for changes in the cells or conditions that might be an indication of or lead to cervical cancer. (source) It is not 100% accurate but it does give an idea of whether all is well with your body. The doctor will also do a visual check of the cervix to see if there are any abnormalities.
At what age should you do a Pap Smear?
This test is recommended for women 21 years and above or those who are sexually active and should be done once a year. In Malaysia, under my previous health plan, the pap smear test was offered as an option for those 30 years and above only unless you are sexually active.
How do they do a Pap Smear test?
A Pap Smear is done by inserting a plastic speculum into the vagina and then widening it so the doctor can examine the cervix and take the swab. If you have seen a picture of a speculum (it looks like a duck’s bill), you can imagine how uncomfortable it can be. I will not lie – it is VERY VERY uncomfortable!!
Does the Pap Smear test hurt?
The test itself does not hurt in the true sense of the word. However, it is very uncomfortable which to some people might equal pain. If you imagine that someone is using a foreign object to artificially widen your vagina so they can peek at your cervix, yes, it hurts plenty! As I said, I won’t lie to you about this element of it but when I complained to my Mum about it, she said “So now you know!” because she knew it all along but did not want to scare me – Moms, don’t you love them? 😛
That said, it is a fairly quick procedure taking less than a minute to perform and the offending object is then removed. Whew! You may have some spotting of blood in the day or two following the test which is normal.
When should the Pap test be done?
The test is best done at the middle of the menstrual cycle, 7 or 10 days after the start of menstruation. The reason for this is because if you are too close to your menstrual cycle, the thickening of your cervix walls might mask any abnormalities or the hormonal imbalance might give an uncertain reading.
Do read more about the Pap Smear and cervix cancer at MAKNA.
I also had a cervical ultrasound check up with a probe that was quite educational. Looking at the ultrasound on the computer monitor, I had no idea how anyone can pick out what organ is what in the blurry mess on the screen! So, no the inside of our bodies look nothing like the clear bright pictures in our biology books, girls. They have been deceiving us all along! LOL…. The probe was not painful, but is uncomfortable. Still, the doctor gave me a clean bill of health which made me very relieved!
Here are some tips to bear in mind if you are planning to get a Pap Smear or ultrasound done:-
- Make sure you are comfortable with the doctor and the procedure because you will be quite stark naked before a stranger. If you prefer a lady doctor or a different doctor than that assigned to you, make sure you ask. Not everyone is comfortable with male gynaecologists and some doctors just have a rough bedside manner irrespective of whether they are male or female.
- Relax on the examination bed. Its easy to tense up but that only makes your muscles stiffen which can make it a more painful experience, so try to breathe deeply and consciously relax, especially down there. Singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to myself helped me 😛
- Ask questions of the doctor before you begin. My doctor talked me through every step of the way which helped me understand and prepare for what she would do so I wasn’t caught by surprise.
You can also read more on what you expect on your first gynaecological examination here.
A Pap Smear can be done at most hospitals or private clinics. We are responsible for our bodies and early detection is the key to beating any disease so, it might be a good idea to think about having a Pap Smear done if you are sexually active or if you have hit the big 3-0.
You can get a Pap Smear done and enquire about the HPV immunization at any doctor. So, if you prefer, see your regular doctor and I’m sure they can tell you more about it or refer you to a gynaecologist who can help with your enquiries.
This is a community service message from Paris B to remind us women to take care of our bodies 🙂
24 comments ... Read or JOIN THE DISCUSSION
giddy tigress says
I hate getting pap smears done, and you’re right, it is uncomfortable! SIGH…but a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do huh?
And as for the ultrasound, my gynae tells me that if you have a full bladder prior to the ultrasound, he can just do an external ultrasound, not an intravaginal one…
Yeah, pap smears are a little uncomfortable. I wouldn’t describe them as painful in the least, but some people handle it better than others (just like men, women are different sizes as well, and smaller sizes can hurt a little more). I’ve had mine done so many times, I just know to sit back, relax, and chat up the doctor (this really helps! Some of the doctors I’ve had are really funny, which really makes you loosen up).
The best thing to remember is to be relaxed, as much as you can be. The more relaxed you are, the faster it will be over with.
Untrasounds are not required around here, but it is true that the more full of liquid you are, the better then image (and when you are done, the faster you run to the bathroom, lol!). Or at least that’s what the doctors told me.
Just thought I would throw a little in for others thinking about having this procedure done for the first time. I wish someone had told me about it before ^_^.
Bugger. I’m married and I’ve never had one 🙁
I shall make an appointment with the GP and get him to refer me to a gynecologist. Yep, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
@giddy tigress : Sigh yeah… if someone had told me how uncomfortable it is, I’d have found excuses to skip it LOL… Still as you said, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.
@kaoru: Thanks for the input. I guess “pain” depends on how much discomfort = pain 🙂
@Tine: Yep its that annual thing that has to be done some way or another.
i have been thinking about it……
Very informative, all the questions answered are actually questions on top of my head ! thanks for this post, I should go and have a test too! 🙁 🙁 🙁 *shudders* LOL Hold my hands anyone?
i did went for pap smear twice. the first procedure was by the late dr jeremy at bangsar. thank god it wasn’t painful nor uncomfortable. i was told to relaxed and before you know it, it’s over! he was such a professional!
the second time was at public hospital. the experience? a complete, total opposite of the first time. horrible. and kind of uncomfortable.
all things aside, if you’re sexually active, go and get yourself check.
Thanks Paris B for writing up on that. Its uncomfortable but necessary especially so in these times when women who are in their early 20’s are getting Cervical cancer! I have a doctor who walks, talks and looks like Phua Chu Kang (best in Singapore, JB and some say Batam!!!) so it helps to imagine him in yellow boots when he’s peeping into my privates! Wahlau!
@prettybeautiful : I was too but now I wonder why I ever was 🙂
@Nikki: Oh girl! You really don’t want someone holding your hand in there do you?! o_O
@dmj: A lot depends on the doctor I agree and public hospitals are urgh!
@JackieA: I had to LOL at your experience. Yes I guess it helps thinking of Phua Chu Kang.
There are still a lot of girls/women who don’t know much about pap smear tests. A lot try to avoid going to the doctors because they are shy and embarrassed. I come from a ‘doctor family’ (that’s what most my friends call us) and even I was thinking, ‘If I should get a pap smear done.’ My mom’s a nurse and is performing smear tests on patients. She offered to do it for my sister and I and we both said, ‘NO!’ *lol* I think I’m more comfortable to get it done by my own doctor.
I remember my first one and how embarrassed I was. I freaked out when I was spotting but mom told me it’s normal. My gynae and his nurse are always chatty, just to make me feel comfortable. I also have ultrasound checkup every year.
Ms. Blacklace says
Lol… Thank God I don’t have to go through that yet….
My current medical plan doesn’t cover this either. 🙁 Must remember to look into it at my next check-up.
Thumbs up for a very informative post, PB!
@Amanda : I think more education is necessary but I’d draw the line at my mom doing the test for me too! LOL…
@Ms. Blacklace: Its just a matter of time dearie!
@Rinnah: If your plan covers it, its great else it doesn’t cost all that much to get the test done privately 🙂
Can I add a lil tip? I learnt this from a gynae in the US.
To ease the speculum going in, I was told to cough. Apparently coughing momentarily relaxes the muscles down below. Seemed to work pretty well each time I’ve tried it. 🙂
Hi paris… can u suggest me where is the good clinic that provide this… perhaps you could refer where you’ve done it….
My mom just went through this last week….so this is what happened…. *still quite shocked*
I’m only glad I won’t be sexually active for at least 3 years…. I can use those years to grow some guts so I don’t chickened out by the time I need to undergo this Pap Smear test.
Thanks for the info Paris B! 🙂
WOW!!! This was very very informative!!! The questions were answered perfectly!! I’m extremely nervous about going to have my first pap done. I’ve never had sex, and i’ve always heard that it will HURT if you haven’t had sex! I really wanted to know what i should expect…thanks
I wish people would stop saying it doesn’t hurt,my pap smears always hurt,and each time I get it done,it gets worse.
Why do women even bother to have pap smears? Do you know that doctors get paid very large incentives to herd as many of us as they can to get the smear? Do you know that women under 30 SHOULD NOT have pap smears? Do you know the risks associated with smears because of the false positives and negatives? Do you know the risks associated with uneeded biopsies and other procedures? Have you ever wondered why smears are so aggresively forced upon us? Do you know how MINUTE the incidence of cervical cancer actually is? Do you know it is AGAINST THE LAW for your doctor to withold birth control or other medication just because you don’t want to have a smear? That is a reportable OFFENCE. Have you ever wondered why lung cancer, bowel cancer etc that are very very COMMON are not aggresively screened like pap smears? Why is that? Have you ever heard of lots of people getting actual cervical CANCER? Not “pre cancer” or “abnormal cells” but CANCER? If you have, I bet it’s not many. How many people do you know, or know of, that have had bowel/breast/lung & other cancers? Did you know that the W.H.O actually recommends that women under 30 NOT be tested? Did you know that women who have had non cancer related hysterectomies DO NOT NEED TO BE TESTED? If your doctor tries to force you to have a smear to get birth control or other medication, ask them these questions, then calmly state that you do not wish to have the smear, and ask if they are witholding your prescription because you don’t want the smear. Tell them that you are going to report them. Your doctor will back off straight away, because the things I have just said are true. Start doing some research, go to reputable medical sites and you will be HORRIFIED to find out these things. Have you noticed that men are not hounded/coerced/forced to have anal or penile examinations, yet penile and anal cancer are more common than cervical cancer. Doctors respect mens wishes and treat them like adults. Read through a brochure aimed at men. It tells them all the risks, as well as all the benefits of having invasive procedures. Doctors don’t threaten to withold medication from men if they CHOOSE not to have a procedure done. The doctor will just accept that a man can make up his own mind about what he does or does not want to have done, end of story. It’s about time doctors started treating us like women and not vaginas on legs. Wake up and stand up for your rights.
I so agree with you! Its not fair that we’re treated like Petri dishes and violated in this humiliating manor. I’ve tried threatening to report, they say you can’t do anything its doctors prerogative. Even a lawyer I spoke with said it would do no good because they Dr has a right to choice the treatment for a patient
can a doctor make you get a papsmear every year to get birth control