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Pap Smears Are Not Pain Incarnate by Kat Glasgow

If Special Agent Dana Scully doesn't flinch when she gets a pap smear, neither do I. Like my heroine Dana, I take preventative health measures and have a pap smears every two years. Pap smears are a simple procedure where cells are taken from the cervix and tested for any abnormalities. Pap smears detect cervical cancer and endometriosis, a disease of the uterus. If every woman in Australia had a pap smear every two years, 90% of cancer of the cervix could be prevented.

The time to have pap smear is every two years, beginning the year after you first become sexually active. The place to have pap smear is at a Uni Health Centre, a Family Planning clinic or a surgery. The person to do the big bad pap is a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with. Female doctors are fabulous because they have an understanding of specific women's health problems, and it doesn't seem so bad baring your genitals to another woman.

It is not yet understood what causes cancer of the cervix. However, research has shown a link with sexual activity, the Human Papilloma virus and smoking. Even if you have had a hysterectomy, you may need a pap testing. It seems the risk increases with age, so even after menopause, hop along to you friendly health practitioner.

I rang the ever discreet, empathic and educational Family Planning Clinic and made a pap appointment. The doctor, who I had requested be female, chatted to me first about the procedure and showed me a model of the female reproductive system. She told me about my rights as a patient, saying that all pap doctors should

She even let me play with a speculum. It was over in second. Pap tests are free at Uni Health Centre and with a Medicare card at Family Planning. Results take about 2 weeks to be posted to you in plain envelope and you can sign on to nationwide registers and databases for reminders to be sent out.

I once met a woman whose name was Dana. She was not a TV character. Her life had been saved by a rush hysterectomy and a pap smear. So if Dana can do it, so can we.

10 Things to Remember

  1. A pap smear can help detect cancer of the cervix by detecting early changes which can be readily treated.
  2. Most results of pap smears are normal.
  3. The majority of unusual cells found are low grade infections or conditions that will clear up naturally and are easily treated.
  4. Cancer of the cervix can take up to te years to develop.
  5. All women between the ages of 18 and 70 who have ever had sex should have a pap smear every two years.
  6. Women who have had a hysterectomy may still need to have a pap smear regularly. Check with your clinic.
  7. Risk of developing cancer increases with age. So have a pap even after menopause.
  8. A pap smear does not check for other types of cancer in the reproductive system or for Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
  9. If you have any unusual symptoms such as bleeding after sex or between periods, check with your doctor.
  10. Choose who does your pap smear

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