Among women, cervical cancer is the 4th most frequent cancer globally, with almost 600,000 new cases each year. That’s approximately 7% of all cancers in women, and cervical cancer is responsible for almost 300,000 deaths every year. In Singapore alone, 400 women are diagnosed with the disease with 200 deaths each year. This is very problematic but if detected early, the cancer is preventable and curable.
One of the most effective ways to detect early-stage cervical cancer is the Papanicolaou test, more commonly known by its shortened name, the Pap test or Pap smear. It was developed by Georgios Papanicolaou, a Greek physician who was one of the pioneers in early cancer detection.
The Pap smear is a widely accessible and affordable test and is crucial in the detection and prevention of early-stage cervical cancer. According to research, women whose cervical cancers were detected by a Pap smear had a cure rate of 92% – compare that with the 66% cure rate among women who were diagnosed through symptoms alone. It is undeniable that a Pap smear is an essential medical test that every woman should undergo.
For the benefit of Singaporean women, I have discussed the procedure and costs of a Pap smear in Singapore. I hope that this article will, in one way or another, help save the lives of women who are unaware that they may have cervical cancer.
Pap smear – what is it?
A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a medical procedure that detects cervical cancer in women. The procedure involves the collection of cells from a woman’s cervix, which is the opening of the uterus nearest the vagina.
During the test, some of your cervical cells will be carefully scraped which are then examined if they exhibit any growth abnormalities. This is usually done at in-office and I can guarantee that it is a quick and safe test. Besides cervical cancer, a Pap smear can also help detect infection, inflammation and specific sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Should you get a Pap Smear?
I usually recommend to my patients that they should get a Pap smear at least once every three years beginning at age 21. When it comes to risk factors, the most at risk of having cervical cancer are:
- women who have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- women who have a weakened immune system, such as those with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- women who have genital herpes
- women who smoke regularly
- women aged 21 and above
- women who have regular sexual intercourse and/or with multiple partners
If you belong to any of the groups above, then I suggest you undergo a Pap smear as early as possible.
On the other hand, if you have had a hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus for noncancerous reasons, then you most likely no longer need to get a Pap smear. Also, if you are 65 years old or above, then you no longer need to get a Pap smear as cervical cancer rarely develops around this age.
How do you prepare for a Pap smear? And what can you expect from the procedure?
For a Pap smear to be highly effective, I suggest my patients do the following preparations:
- Schedule the Pap smear on a day where you don’t have your menstrual period. Menstruation can muddle the results so it’s best to avoid these days for the test.
- Avoid sexual intercourse and/or the use of any vaginal medicines or spermicidal creams at least two days before having a Pap smear. These activities can wash away abnormal cells and the test may give you a false negative result.
- If you are pregnant, then it is safe to have a Pap smear up to 5 or 6 months in your pregnancy. Any later, and it may become painful for you.
- If you have just given birth, you should wait at least 3 months before getting a Pap smear.
- Relax and stay calm before and during the procedure.
When it comes to the procedure itself, it may be a bit uncomfortable, but it usually doesn’t take long and will be over in just 5 minutes. First, you will be asked you to lie down on an exam table with your knees bent. Then, a small device called a vaginal speculum will be inserted into your vagina, which will give a better view of your cervix. After this, cells from your cervix will be carefully scrapped using a special Pap smear brush and then the test is over. Easy and quickly as that. There may be some discomfort after the test but should disappear within a few hours.
The cell samples will be sent to our laboratory for analysis and you’ll be advised you to return to the clinic when the results are ready.
How much does a Pap smear cost in Singapore?
- Pap smears are free if you can arrange an appointment by calling the Singapore Cancer Society.
- As an alternative, if you are a CHAS (Community Health Assist) cardholder you can get a Pap smear done for just $2. Also, thanks to the Health Promotion Board, women can get the test for only $5 for citizens and $12.25 for permanent residents if you qualify.
- You can also get a Pap smear from almost any health clinic and hospital in Singapore from $15 to $100.
There are also speciality clinics like DB Clinic where you can get a Pap smear. Here, our services are geared to improve not only women’s health but of men and the whole family as well. If you have already decided to get one, contact us at DB Clinic to arrange an appointment. We’ll be happy to give you a quotation and assist you in every way we can.
I would like to reiterate that a Pap smear is very important because early-stage cervical cancer usually does not display any symptoms. Thus, if you have early-stage cervical cancer but don’t get a Pap smear, then most likely you will only detect the disease once it displays symptoms and has advanced to a stage where it is harder to treat. Remember that early detection is key to the success of your treatment.
DB Medical: Women’s & Men’s Health Clinic
290 Orchard Rd, #14-10 Paragon Medical Centre,
+65 6733 7122