Updated 24 April 2018

KZN Health Department breaks world record for Pap smears

More than 2 000 women showed up for the test, which almost tripled the previous world record.

Despite the ongoing oncology crisis in the province, KwaZulu-Natal's Health Department managed to break a world record for the number of Pap smears done in a day – 2 000 to be precise. 

The initiative was conducted in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and aimed to break the world record by doing 1 000 Pap smears.

However, on Saturday, 21 April, 2 000 women lined up at Inkosi Albert Lithuli Hospital to get screened for cervical cancer. Authorities and those participating were overjoyed at not only reaching their goal, but also doubling it.

The drive formed part of the government's Phila Ma campaign, which aims to create public awareness about breast and cervical cancers.

Cervical cancer – a major killer

It's believed that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among and causes the largest number of deaths among South African women than any other cancer and such a high number of Pap smears has never been done in one place on the same day on the African continent. According to CANSA, one in every 39 women in the country will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

One of the most common methods of testing for cervical cancer is the Pap smear test, which screens for precancerous cells that may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

Health24 states that all women should get a cervical cancer test, or Pap smear, at least once every three years after becoming sexually active.

How are Pap smears done?

Cells are collected from the cervix during a pelvic examination. A doctor usually uses a speculum to open the vagina and keep the walls apart to see the cervix. A spatula or a brush is used to collect cells which are transferred onto a glass plate.

The specimen is labelled and sent to laboratory where the necessary tests are conducted to determine the condition of the cells.

In a statement, Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo thanked all who made the day a resounding success – from the large numbers of women, volunteers and ordinary citizens, to the specialists, doctors and nurses.

Those who took part in the screening will be issued a return slip and asked to return to their local clinics after six weeks to get their results.

Those whose Pap smears display abnormalities will be booked for a procedure to remove any cancerous cells.

Image credit: iStock