If you’re reading this, you’re probably worried, anxious and scared at the moment. After all, having someone check your privates, much more a doctor that you’ve only met for the first time, is unnerving.
Most Filipinas overlook this checkup because of the feeling of discomfort while having it. But did you know that having yourself checked by your OB-GYN routinely could save your life? It only takes 5 minutes.
The Pap test or Pap Smear is a screening exam used to check for any changes in a woman’s cervix, the donut-like structure the acts as the opening of the uterus. During a woman’s lifetime the cervix undergoes changes due to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
During this health test, an ob-gynecologist collects samples of cervical discharge or mucus from the cervix by inserting a cotton swab and dabbing it on the surface of the area. Then using a microscope, a lab technician examines the chemical makeup of the discharge. This test is also used to detect if an infection or cervical cancer is present at the time of the examination.
Pap tests are essential in keeping menstrual and reproductive health in check. Fortunately, getting this health exam is cheap, painless and only takes five minutes to complete.
How often is a Pap Test Needed?
It is prescribed that women consult their doctor about when and how they should undergo a Pap test. Most doctors in the Philippines follow the recommendation of the Department of Health, that women should have their first Pap test at age 21. Women who are 21 to 30 years old should get screened every two years. Since women over 30 years are more likely to have abnormalities in the cervix, they should be tested with a combination of the Pap test and HPV test.
Although the Pap test can diagnose if an abnormal discharge is bacterial and fungal, it cannot diagnose if it is viral such as the human papillomavirus or HPV. That is why doctors are likely to suggest routine Pap smear together with cervical cancer vaccination.