Dolly Doctor

Should I get a pap smear?

Worried somethings not quite right downstairs? Get clued up on what could be the cause.

Dear DOLLY DR,

I'm 13 and I recently felt a lump when I was touching myself down there. I'm worried it's cervical cancer. I Googled it and the websites say to get a pap test but I'm too nervous to tell my mum.

Ciara

I think the lump you felt is probably your cervix. The cervix will feel like a lump the same texture as the tip of your nose, and it sits at the top of the vagina. Take a look at some websites with diagrams of the vagina, cervix and uterus and you will get an idea of where your cervix should be. If this lump is lower down than the cervix (i.e. in the lower or middle part of your vagina) then what it might be depends on exactly where it is. Towards the opening of your vagina, near the vaginal lips, it could actually be a cyst or swollen gland. If it’s right up inside the vagina (where there are no glands) it could be something quite uncommon.

I’m also assuming you are referring to some self-exploration with your fingers and nothing more. A Pap smear is a scraping of the cells from your cervix to look for pre-cancerous changes. Cancer of the cervix is related to the HPV (human papillomavirus) and only occurs once a woman has had sexual intercourse.

Fingering will not spread the HPV virus, even if you have warts on your hands (as they are a different strain of the virus). You do not need a Pap smear until you are 18 or have started having sexual intercourse. If you have had other sexual experiences or intercourse involving a partner then it would be worth getting a check-up.

On the other hand, regardless of your sexual experience, if you have found a lump that you’re unsure of, even if it might be a healthy cervix, it’s worth getting checked.