Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ask the doc: Pap smear screening

Pathology: EM: Papilloma Virus (HPV) Electron ...Image via Wikipedia
Pap smear screening

Query from concerned daughter

My mum is in her early 50s. I’ve been trying very hard to persuade her to go for a pap smear screening. The last time she went for the test was more than a year ago.

No matter how hard I plead with her, she insists that she is safe from cervical cancer as she has not had sexual intercourse for the past years. We also do not have any family history of cervical cancer.

Is what she says true? Or, am I being overly concerned? How often should one go for a pap smear?

I’ve read articles with various recommendations — some state that pap smears can be done once every three years, while others recommend an annual checkup.

Reply by Dr See Hui Ti
Senior Consultant, Parkway Cancer Centre;
Chairman, Cervical Cancer Awareness Campaign 2010,
Singapore Cancer Society

100 Questions & Answers Abourt Cervical Cancer (100 Questions & Answers about . . .)Cervical cancer is caused by a strain of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It is a highly preventable disease and is usually detected in women who fail to go for regular pap smear screening.

It is a misconception that married or married menopausal women who have not had sexual intercourse for a long time do not require pap smear.

Changes in the cells of cervix may happen many years after being exposed to HPV. A person can have HPV even years after he or she had sexual contact with an infected person.

Most infected persons do not realise they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a partner.

Crying in the Shower-Cervical CancerIf pre-cancer cells are left undetected and untreated, they are likely to progress to cervical cancer over time. There is no symptom in the pre-cancerous and very early stage of the disease.

Most of these are detected by pap smears. A majority of abnormal smear include those showing infective, precancerous or cancerous changes. Regular pap smear screening helps protect you against the disease.

Women in the higher risk group, for instance, those with impaired immune responses, family history of cervical cancer, many sex partners or a partner who has many different sex partners, may require annual pap smear to catch any abnormalities early.

What Every Woman Should Know about Cervical CancerThe norm is to do a pap smear every two to three years. The frequency should be determined in consultation with your gynaecologist, as this provides a more accurate assessment based on the risk profile of the patient.

Regular screening provides the chance of treating pre-cancerous cells early and prevents the development of cancer.

I strongly urge your mother to go for regular pap smear screening even though her family does not have a history of cervical cancer.

At this moment, once a year can be considered as a standard, but some women may choose to have it done once every two to three years.

Say Something! Help End Cervical CancerThe information provided above is for your general knowledge only. You should seek medical advice or treatment for your condition. Email questions to

From TODAY, Health - Tuesday, 06-April-2010

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