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All about Pap Smears

Well, I got my reminder letter a month or so ago, and this morning I took myself off to the doctor for my regular pap smear. Not an appointment to look forward to but a necessary event nevertheless.

No-one likes having a pap smear test done, it can be uncomfortable and all of us would rather share our private parts with someone we love rather than the local doctor or family planning clinic. But, this is no excuse, pap tests are an important way of maintaining menstual health, and every woman should do it.

What is a pap smear test and why do we need them?

A pap smear refers to a sample of cervical wall cells which are obtained by scraping the cervix during a pelvic examination. Practitioners generally also visually observe the cervix during the smear to detect any abnormalities.


  • You lie on your back or your side on the couch. An instrument called a speculum is slid gently into your vagina and then opened so that the doctor can see the cervix clearly, with the help of a light.
  • The smear is then taken with a thin spatula and a soft brush. It is really a very thin amount of mucus with cells that sit on the surface and the small opening of the cervix.
  • The smear is then placed on a glass slide, which is sent away to be tested.

Pap smears are important because they can detect cancer of the uterine cervix or precancerous conditions - abnormalities of the cervix that may lead to cancer.

Every woman should have a pap smear done regularly once she becomes sexually active and is 18 years of age or older. In Australia, it is recommended that a smear should be done every 2 years, it may be different in the US / UK / Europe and elsewhere.

The Facts about Cervical Cancer - go to

Common myths about Pap Smears - go to

More links and information on Pap Smears

By Nadia MacLeod