From the age of 21, all women who have had sex should consider a pap smear test every 2 years.

Pap smears are designed to pick up changes that could eventually lead to cancer of the cervix as a woman ages but means treatment can be used early on to prevent this from happening.

It is a simple procedure which can be a bit embarrassing (especially the first time!) but is not something to be frightened of.

The doctor or nurse places a plastic device into the vagina, looks for the cervix (neck of the womb) and then takes a small sample using a small soft brush ( like a mascara brush.) The cells are placed on a slide and sent away to a laboratory for testing.

Within a few days a report will be sent to your doctor and most reports will be normal.

However, mildly abnormal results are not uncommon. Usually, these are due to a bit of inflammation in the cells caused by a virus (HPV). For most women, all that needs to be done is for them to have the next pap smear one year later. By then often the abnormality has resolved.

Occasionally the pap smear will show a higher level of inflammation- sometimes this will lead to the woman seeing a gynaecologist for a special check up (colposcopy) to see if the pap smear is accurate and to discuss treatment if this is considered necessary.

Remember cancer of the cervix is now extremely rare in women who have regular Pap Smears so women should not get too upset about abnormal pap smears which are inflammation NOT cancer.

All women (especially up to age 25) should consider having Gardasil vaccination to reduce the chance of abnormal pap smears or cancer of the cervix in the future.

Cairns Doctors are happy to offer women a pap smear and can help you understand any abnormal results or concerns you may have.