This article has been archived and will not be updated. For the latest information about our programmes and initiatives, please refer to www.hpb.gov.sg or www.healthhub.sg.
FAQs on Screening for Cervical Cancer: Pap smear
1. Is the Pap smear process painful?
You may feel some discomfort or pain. It helps if you try to relax during the process. If you feel uncomfortable during the process, inform your doctor or nurse immediately.
2. How reliable is the Pap smear?
Like other screening tests, it is not 100% accurate. It may not always detect early cell changes in the cervix.
3. If I have no family history of cancer, do I still need to go for a Pap smear?
Yes. Even if you have no family history of cancer, you might still be at risk of cervical cancer.
4. Can I have a Pap smear if I am having my menses?
You cannot be tested during your period as blood cells that are shed during your period may affect the accuracy of your Pap smear result. Make an appointment 14 days after the start of your period.
5. Do I still need a Pap smear if I have gone through menopause?
Yes. The risk of getting cervical cancer increases with age.
Women who have had sexual intercourse and have never had a Pap smear should go for screening despite her age. However, a menopausal woman who goes for regular screening may be discharged at 69 years of age if her smear taken at 69 years is negative and the previous smear within the last 3 years was negative. Please check with your doctor if you are unsure.
6. I am 70 years old. Do I still need to go for Pap smear?
If you have not had a Pap smear in the last 3 years, you should speak to your doctor to check if you should go for the screening.
7. Do I need a Pap smear if I have had a hysterectomy?
You may not need a Pap smear if you have had a total hysterectomy i.e. the uterus and cervix have both been removed for a non-cancerous condition such as heavy bleeding or fibroids. You should have one Pap smear done after your hysterectomy. If you did not have one or are unsure, you should check with your doctor.
If you had a partial hysterectomy (where your cervix was not removed) or you had a hysterectomy for either cancer or a pre-cancerous condition, you will still need to have a Pap smear once every three years. Please check with your doctor if you are unsure.
8. Do I need a Pap smear if I feel healthy?
Yes. You may not experience any symptom or pain, but only Pap smear can detect changes in the cervix even before the abnormal cells develop into cervical cancer. You are encouraged to make it a habit to go for a Pap smear once every three years even if you feel healthy.
9. Do I need a Pap smear if I am vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
Yes, you should go for a Pap smear every three years even if you have been vaccinated. About 30% cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV sub-types which the vaccine does not protect against. In other words, the vaccines do not protect against all cancer-causing HPV sub types.
Regular Pap smear is still your best protection against cervical cancer.