Ahhh pap smears - confusing as hell, uncomfortable to think about and slightly awkward the first time round, BUT 100% necessary if you wanna prevent cervical cancer.
There’s HEAPS of conflicting info out there about when you should get them (after your first have sex? Every two years even if you’re a virgin? You don’t need to bother if you’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine? Arghhhh) so let’s cut through the dodgy info and sniff out the actual facts. Lez go..
When do I need to have my first pap smear?
Two years after the first time you’ve had sex, then every two years after that.
I’m a virgin so I don’t need to be tested, right?
It’s not that clear-cut. About 98 per cent of cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is passed by genitals touching genitals, so this includes fooling around – the penis does not necessarily have to go into the v-jay. If you’re a lesbian and your lady garden has touched someone else's lady garden you will need to be tested.
If you have not been sexual in this way, you’re in the clear and do not need to have Pap tests, according to PapScreen Victoria UNTIL you’re over the age of 18 and then you it is recommended you be tested.
What does a Pap smear test for and how is it done?
Basically, a scraping of cells are collected from your cervix and looked at under a microscope to check for any abnormalities caused by HPV which you can catch from sexual partners. In other words, they’re looking for signs cervical cancer could be on the cards in the future.
Does it also test for STIs?
Nope, you need to have separate tests for this. Only abnormalities caused by HPV can be detected by a Pap smear, nothing else.
I’ve had the cervical cancer vaccine. Do I still need to get a Pap smear?
Yes. There’s a bunch of different strains of HPV and the vaccine only protects against some. Also, you may have been exposed to HPV before the vaccine.
What exactly happens during the test.
1. The doctor will get you to take everything off from the bottom down then sit up on the exam table. You'll often be given a sheet for modesty (love that). They get you to put your feet into the stirrups at the end of the exam table and spread them wide, and we mean wiiiiide apart.
2. The doc will grab a vaginal speculum – this is a plastic or metal device designed to open the va-jay-jay walls open so the doc can get a good look and easy access to the cervix. They often put lube on this first then hook it onto your v-jay. It can be a little uncomfortable at first but certainly not unbearable.
3. They'll insert a spatula or brush to take a swab from the cervix. This isn’t painful and in fact, you usually can’t even feel this at all.
4. The vaginal speculum is then closed and pulled off. The whole thing if over in less than five minutes – tops.
5. The sample is sent off for testing and your results are usually available in a week.
THAT’S IT! Done for another two years.