Pap smear is a necessity for women young and old

Women between the ages of 21 and 29 are encouraged to get a Pap smear test every three years as the test is able to detect pre-cancer of the cervix before it turns into aggressive cancer.

Dr Nana Dlomo, a Gauteng-based general practitioner told Wits Vuvuzela that women should get a Pap smear once they are sexually active or from the age of 21. “If there is a concern or otherwise specified by a medical practitioner, the Pap smear can be repeated in six month,” she said.  

Dlomo added that some of her younger patients are casual about health issues. “My younger university students are generally more uninterested in things even if the information is there for them through pamphlets and social media.”

” A Pap smear is not about the entire womb. A vaginal speculum is used to expose the cervix (an opening of the womb) where a specimen is retrieved. The specimen is then taken to a lab for testing,” said Dlomo.

The South African Health Department’s annual health statistics lists cervical cancer as the second most prevalent cancer among women and the most common form of cancer among women aged 15–49 years.

The Health Department also suggests that primary prevention of cervical cancer using Pap smear has the potential to reduce cervical cancer by at least 70–80%.

Signs of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding, extreme pain during sex and a significant unexplained change in one’s menstrual cycle.

Of the 14 students that Wits Vuvuzela talked to about Pap smears, most said they did not consider the test a necessity with some saying they did not know what a Pap smear is.

Ntokozo Nkwanyana, 21, third-year BA general, said, “I have enquired about it but I am not sexually active so I don’t think it is necessary to have one done,” she said.

Third- year BA general student, Patricia “Buntu” Modiba, 22, said, “when I first heard the word Pap smear, I thought it was food. My friend later explained it to me but I still did not understand it or why I needed the test, I still don’t see a need for it,” she said.

Acting Head of the Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC), Maggie Moloi said the clinic has had some students come in for the test. “Between January and March of this year we have had 14 students come in for the test,” Moloi said.

Moloi told Wits Vuvuzela that the procedure only lasts a few minutes. “It is never comfortable to have someone between your legs, but the procedure itself is not painful,” she said.

“We have nurses that are responsible for health education. In September, which is cancer awareness month, we encourage students to come over for a Pap smear. We even have talks at Wits residences, but the service is available throughout the year,” she added.

The CHWC offers Pap smear tests for R155,00 per test.

FEATURED IMAGE: An info graphic with information on why a pap smear is important