Cervical cancer screening is an important part of a woman’s regular check up. Being the 10th most common form of cancer in Singaporean women, it is no small matter.
Cervical cancer is primarily cause by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Up to 70% of cases are related to HPV. This is why screening and vaccination are both important in the fight against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is often insidious with very few symptoms appearing before it is too late. The screening program is a safe and highly effective way at identifying cervical cancer.
The PAP Smear
The test is known as a pap smear, after the old style of screening. However, we now use a method known as water-based thing prep (which is much easier to perform and much more accurate) but we still call it a pap smear so that it is easily recognisable.
The new thin prep pap smear requires the use of a small brush, like that in the above picture, which is swirled at the cervix opening several times to pull off a few cervix cells. This is then deposited into the water collection medium and sent to the lab for testing.
Current recommendations are that women should have 3 yearly pap smear screens if they have always been normal. If an abnormality is found then screens will need to be more regular. However, we still recommend that women get yearly pap smear screens to be safe.
An additional test that can be done at the same time as the pap smear is known as an HPV digene test. This looks specifically at high risk strains of HPV that can lead to cancer. If both tests are clear then screening need only be done every 3 to 5 years. However, if a high risk HPV strain is found, even in the presence of a normal pap smear, we would require further testing at a gynaecologist.
Remember, ladies, cervical cancer can be caught very early with screening. And early detection means higher chance of cure with minimal intervention.
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