Pap Smear

The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is not having a Pap smear every 2 years.

Cancer of the cervix is one of the most preventable cancers. The Pap smear is a reliable test which can detect early changes in the cervix (neck of the womb), before they have a chance to develop into cancer. Women receiving a termination of pregnancy at the Salisbury Day Surgery can have their pap smear taken at the time of their procedure.

What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is a reliable test which collects a number of cells from the cervix (neck of the womb) and places them on a glass slide. The slide is sent to a laboratory to check for any changes and results are usually available in a week or two. No drugs or anaesthetics are used and a Pap smear only takes a few minutes.

The Pap smear is designed to find early changes in cervical cells which can be treated to prevent cancer developing. These early changes are not cancer, but if not checked or treated, they may develop into cancer. Research has shown the majority of women (three out of four) who develop cervical cancer have not had a regular Pap smear every two years.

What causes cancer of the cervix?
Research shows the human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for most cancer’s developing in the cervix.  While HPV is very common, cervical cancer is not common. Most women with HPV will not develop cervical cancer.

How effective is a Pap smear?
Up to 90% of the most common form of cancer of the cervix could be prevented if women had Pap smears every two years.

Who should have a Pap smear?
If you are over 18 and have ever had sex, you should have regular Pap smears, even if you no longer have sex. This includes male to female, and female to female sex.

Why do some women have Pap smears more often than every two years?
Even if it is less than two years since their last Pap smear some women may be advised by their Pap smear provider that they need another Pap smear. This includes:

  • Women who show symptoms such as bleeding after sex, bleeding between periods or after menopause
  • Women with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain medications
  • Women who have had an abnormal Pap smear and are having follow-up care.

When am I due for my next Pap smear?
If you can’t remember when you had your last Pap smear and would like to know when you are due for your next one, you can phone the Queensland Health Pap Smear Register on 1800 777 790 if you are registered on the Pap Smear Register.