Cervical Cancer

11 November 2013

Don’t delay your pap smear

Does the idea of a pap smear make you cringe? Don’t let cost or squeamishness put you off – cervical cancer kills...

Does the idea of a pap smear make you cringe? Don’t let cost or squeamishness put you off – cervical cancer kills more women in Africa than any other form of cancer!

Here’s all the info you need to cut out any confusion…

How it’s done:

During a pap smear, the doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina. This is a small plastic or steel instrument, no larger than an average size penis. It should not be painful to insert, maybe a bit uncomfortable.

The doctor examines your external genitalia and vagina for any abnormalities and then uses a small plastic brush to scrape off the outer layer of cells on your cervix (the “mouth” of your womb”). This isn’t painful. The sample is then sent to the lab to be screened for cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.

A sexually transmitted virus called human papiloma virus or HPV causes these cancerous changes. The pap smear doesn’t automatically test for HPV, only for the changes in the cells caused by the virus.

Your GP can also do your pap smear and they are done for free at some government clinics.

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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