Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control.
Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated if found early through a pap smear test. Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma virus (HPV). You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time. An infection may go away on its own. But sometimes it can cause
genital warts or cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important to have regular tests.
A pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix. It detects changes in cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early is the first step in stopping the possible development of
The test is performed in your doctor’s office and takes a few minutes. You lie on your back on an exam table with
your knees bent. Your heels rest in supports called stirrups. Your doctor will insert an instrument called a speculum
into your vagina. The speculum holds the walls of the vagina apart so your doctor can see the cervix. Inserting the speculum may cause a sensation of pressure in the pelvic area. The doctor will take samples of cervical cells using a soft brush or a scraping device called a spatula. It may be slightly uncomfortable. Depending on the type of pap
testing you’re undergoing, your doctor transfers the cell sample collected into a container holding a liquid to preserve the sample (liquid-based pap test) or onto a glass slide (conventional pap smear).
The samples are then taken to a laboratory where they’re examined under a microscope to look for characteristics in
the cells that indicate cancer or a precancerous condition.
ALSO SEE: What you need to know about cervical cancer screening
It is possible to receive false negative results, meaning the test indicates no abnormality, even though you do have abnormal cells. A false negative result does not mean a mistake was made.
Factors that can cause a false negative result include:
To ensure a pap smear is effective, follow these tips prior to a test:
About the author:
Dr Dulcy holds a MBBCH degree from Wits University, a diploma in occupational health, a diploma in HIV management, travel medicine diploma, masters of science in sports medicine, and a masters in business administration degree from GIBS and is here to help! A social entrepreneur with a passion for providing healthcare and wellness solutions for low and middle-income communities in South Africa. Learn more about Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe here.
*Always consult your paediatrician, gynaecologist or health-care provider for all health matters relating to you and your children.
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