We know it, but we don’t do it. Regular preventative care is the ultimate way to safeguard wellbeing over time, then why is this key test so overlooked? If you wait too long to come and see me only when you have a medical concern, it might be too late as cervical cancer, one of the deadliest forms for women, often strikes because pap smears have been neglected. Pap smears aren’t exactly women’s idea of fun, but despite their unglamorous nature, they are vital for your health and shouldn’t be neglected. 

Cervical cancer screening is a crucial prerequisite. Unlike breast cancer where every woman is advised to do a regular self-examination, there isn’t anything you can do at home to help detect possible cervical cancer. It poses as much of a threat to the lives of women in the UAE as all over the world; it’s indeed a notorious health and economical burden.

All over the world, medical professionals have been raising the dust in their quest to raise awareness of the importance of cervical cancer screening. And the UAE is no exception, but the sad news is that women here tend to avoid discussing such private topics, despite the fact that the disease can be easily prevented if the proper precautions are taken.

Facts about this global menace

This is no joke and nothing to be blasé about; cervical cancer is one of the world’s deadliest yet most easily preventable forms of cancer for women, but many still put off having the life-saving Pap smear test. In spite of the well-documented  benefits of the Pap smear test and public health efforts, still a massive sector of the community of women shy from cervical screening.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), regular Pap smear testing can help prevent up to 90% of the most common form of cervical cancer. One of the most common concerns that gynaecologists have for women is cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). When abnormal cells are checked and caught early, they can be treated with simple procedures to avoid future problems. A Pap smear is a simple and quick test used to assess the health of your cervical cells. Early detection is crucial since many women do not report any obvious symptoms until after the cancer is well dug-in and may have already spread to other body organs.

How often you should get a Pap smear done?

As recommended by The American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), young women should have a Pap smear every two years starting at age 21 and until age 30. Beyond this, you may decrease the frequency to every three years if you’ve had three normal Pap test results in row and if your immune system has not been negatively impacted by a viral infection or a recent health condition. Women who have abnormal Pap smears should take their gynaecologist’s advice on how often to come in for checkups.

How Pap smear testing is done?

You are encouraged to avoid vaginal douching or engaging in intimate acts for two to three days before your gynaecologist appointment for Pap smear testing to enhance results accuracy. Also it’s advised not to proceed for Pap smearing while on monthly period as this can impede the accuracy of the test.

Pap smears are virtually painless – just mild discomfort might be felt – and usually done during a pelvic exam. Your cervix will be swabbed with a brush or cotton swab to collect cells from its surface, and then those cells will be sent off to the laboratory for analysis to see if there are any abnormal cells present. Since Pap smears go more smoothly if your body is relaxed, it’s important to relax as much as possible and take deep breaths during the procedure.

One final, yet sincere advice

Though cancer is a shocking concern which rocks lives all over the world every day, it is comforting to know that, in the case of cervical cancer, there are effective measures that can be taken to minimize the risk of it impacting on your own life.

Having Pap smears at recommended intervals is probably the most important thing a woman can do to protect herself from developing cervical cancer. Women are considered fortunate that this type of cancer is characterized by initial changes that may start around ten years before the cancer itself actually develops, and moreover, such changes can be easily detected. So, even if the test proves positive for some abnormal cell, there is no need to worry. Under expert gynecological management, those cells can be removed and the woman will never come close to cancer.

Dr. Anna Sepiolo
European Board in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
American Board & Fellowship in Anti-Aging, Metabolic and Functional Medicine