My friend’s mother passed from cervical cancer at age 50. At the time, my friend and I had just graduated from uni. It came as a great shock because my friend’s father was a renowned TCM doctor. But it turned out that her mother never had a Pap smear before. By the time the cancer was discovered, it was too late. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, up to 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented by proper screening and other preventative measures.
Gynaecological cancers, particularly cervical cancer, are among the 10 most common cancers affecting women in Singapore. To help spread awareness and increase early prevention, the Singapore Cancer Society, together with over 160 GPs islandwide, are providing free pap smears until 31 August 2017 to all eligible female Singaporeans and PRs. This is part of their Women’s Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Campaign, which aims to bring greater awareness to uterine, ovarian and cervical cancer, and encourage ladies to get screened regularly (every 3 years for Pap smear screening). Please click here for a list of participating GPs.
It is Really Free?
Yes, the Pap smear test is free. There shouldn’t be any associated consultation fee for the visit (if you’re just getting the Pap test), but do confirm this when making your appointment. Normally, the Pap smear can cost anywhere from $12 to $30, excluding consultation fees. You may need a followup consultation if your test comes back as “abnormal”. The followup visit will be chargeable and the fees vary depending on the clinic.
Who is Eligible?
Female Singaporeans and PRs between 25 and 69 years of age who are/were sexually active and who have not had a Pap smear in the last 3 years are eligible.
When does this “Free Promo Period” End?
You can get a free Pap smear until 31 August 2017 (extended from 31 July 2017). However, you are advised to schedule your test 2 weeks after the beginning of your menses, or 1 week before your next menstrual cycle. If your appointment date lands during your menses, although most doctors are still able to perform the test, getting a clear test result may be harder and a repeat Pap smear may be necessary. For menopausal women, a Pap smear may be done at any time.
Things to Avoid Before Your Appointment
Doctors will advise that you avoid douching, swimming, sexual intercourse, lubricants, spermicides, and vaginal creams for 24 to 48 hours before your Pap smear.
What to Expect
Although SingHealth refers to it as “quick, simple and painless“, if you’ve never had a Pap smear before, you should know that it can be uncomfortable, but it usually won’t cause any long-term pain. It can also be embarrassing as you will be in a compromising position, with your legs up in stirrups while an often cold, overly lubricated speculum is inserted into your lady parts. The opening of the speculum and the swabbing of your cervix takes just a few minutes, but to me, time always seems to pass very slowly during it all. But these moments of discomfort are infrequent (once every 3 years) and pales in comparison to what may result from not being screened. And now that the test is free, there’s really no excuse to not getting it done.