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The Importance of Regular Pap Smears

‘What is a Pap smear?’ ‘Who needs a smear test?’ ‘Does getting a smear hurt?’ If you asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in the right place my friend.


The term “Pap smear” can send shivers through a lot of women’s bones and it is often a dreaded and terrifying procedure for some. But what is this form of torment you ask?


A Pap smear, or cervical smear, is a screening process for cervical cancer in women. It entails collecting cervical cells in a short examination to detect precancerous or cancerous cells. It is a service that is free of charge to women over twenty-five who are registered and can be performed quickly and efficiently in the comfort of a GP’s office or registered medical clinic.


Women between the ages of twenty-five to sixty are screened every three to five years under the ‘Cervical Check’ program in Ireland. The check is performed at least triennially, as cells are rapidly changing and early detection and intervention is the most beneficial method of tackling the scourge of cervical cancer. According to the National Cancer Registry, there were over 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer worldwide this year alone, and the epidemic is projected to increase in Ireland by 77%-88% over the coming twenty years. This increases the likelihood of you, your family or your friends of experiencing this illness, which can only be detected and attacked through regular attendance at Pap smear appointments.


Contrary to beliefs, a smear test is not painful, but may involve some discomfort due to a sensation of pressure or embarrassment caused by the nature of the exam. Unfortunately, if you received the HPV vaccine many moons ago in secondary school or otherwise, it does not exempt you from the screening. The vaccine is not a complete guarantee of protection from the disease, so you’re better safe than sorry in this case!


So why go?

If precancerous cells are detected, a simple procedure can be conducted to eradicate these cells and prevent cervical cancer from developing depending on the stage detected. Cervical cancer and cancer in general has the best recovery and survival rates if the cancer is discovered and treated early. It will also ease any worries you may have if you have a family history or are at high risk of developing this cancer.


So don’t be shy, it can be an awkward process and a bit of a taboo subject because of the nature of the exam, but one that is definitely worthwhile and important. Encourage and remind family and friends to book and attend their pap screen appointments because no, it’s not “just a bunch of hocus pocus.”


It’s a real issue that’s on the rise worldwide and us gals got to look out for one another.



Nursing student in DCU. Massive foodie, animal lover and obsessed with all things winter!
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