Although Australia has significantly invested in educating the public regarding cervical cancer, a lot of women are still reluctant about getting a Pap test done. More than 200 women die each year of cervical cancer with mortality rate being about five times higher for Aboriginal women.
What is a Pap test?
We know that the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the key to the development of cervical cancer. About 40 HPV types affect the genital tract and almost 50% of them have been linked to the development of cervical cancer.
The Pap test is a screening test that lets you detect early changes in the cervical cells due to HPV. The changes have different types of grade, from low to high. We usually allow time for resolution of low grade changes as most do not progress further. High grade changes are at risk of developing into cervical caner and therefore, if confirmed, treatment will start immediately.
What does a Pap involve?
A Pap test is done in at a doctor’s office and it involves taking a sample of cells from your cervix with a small brush. These cells are then transferred onto a glass slide and sent to cytologists for examination under the microscope.
It is recommended that the test should be repeated every 2 years even if you’re not sexually active. What’s important to remember is that the Pap test will not detect sexually transmitted disease nor it is an appropriate test for ovarian cancer.
When should I see a gynaecologist?
As mentioned before, in order to prevent any dangerous HPV changes, a Pap test should be performed every two years. However, if you notice any of these red flags, you should also see your gynaecologist:
1. Very bad menstrual cramps
Although pain during the menses accompanies a lot of women, you should pay attention at how bad it is. If giddiness or breathlessness accompanies it, then it is time to see your doctor.
2. Abnormal vaginal bleeding
If you have very heavy periods or have irregular bleeding outside your normal period time, you should seek medical advice.
3. When your discharge smells off or changes colour
This is not only an embarrassing feature but might be a sign of serious changes in your vagina. If your discharge is clumpy or foamy, smells fishy, or is green or yellowish-grey, you should have it checked by a doctor as this might be a sign of an STI, vaginal infection such as candida or bacterial vaginosis, or a urinary tract infection.
4. When you leak urine when you laugh or jog
5. When sex is really painful, sometimes impossible.
Pain during or after sex, or bleeding after intercourse, may be a cause for concern. There may be a number or reasons for which your gynaecologist can investigate to determine the cause of this.
Pay attention & be healthy
The above red flags are signs that you should go and see a doctor. There is nothing better than a physical check up to keep you happy and healthy. Nowadays, nearly all infections and diseases are easily cured. Why not help yourself and make your life easier with a simple visit at a doctor’s office?