According to the Office on Women’s Health, a pap smear is used to screen for cervical cancer. This is done by collecting cell samples from your cervix and testing to see if they are cancerous or precancerous.
The test can help detect cancer in its early stages, as well as help find abnormal cells your gynaecologist can treat before they become cancerous.
If your results are regular, your health care provider will recommend you do one every three years. However, if you have certain risk factors, you may be required to repeat pap testing every year.
When should you go for your first one? Once you become sexually active or if you have any reproductive concerns.
To smash those first test fears and prepare myself for the huge milestone, I thought it would be a good plan to try out an unintimidating pharmacy setting, especially after finding out there would be a huge discount from the normal price.
My nurse asked me to take off my clothes and while I thought she’d give me one of those hospital paper gowns to cover up, there weren't any. And I felt too shy to ask for something to cover up.
After gesturing to the bed, she proceeded to tell me to put my legs up. Images of a woman giving birth flooded my mind, and anxiety kicked in.
I desperately wanted a duvet, a paper vest or something to cover up my naked body*.
But as this was no hospital and I readied myself to go through it completely naked.
So I simply laid on the soft paper layer placed under the lower half of my body, trying to avoid looking at the tool that would be inserted into my vagina.
I asked her if it would hurt and she told me that it wouldn't as long as I followed instructions. There was no small talk either.
She opened my legs wider and inserted what I now know is a metal speculum to open my vaginal walls. I felt a small amount of pressure.
This is when I closed my eyes and waited for it to get to the excruciating part, but to my pleasant surprise it was over within three minutes.
All in all it took about 10 minutes and you don't have to make an appointment. I went late morning so luckily there was no queue.
Next time I'll go to a GP because although it was less expensive at the pharmarcy, I wouldn't recommend it to friends and family. I missed being covered by a gown at the very least.
Since there is a history of cancer in my family, I do feel nervous waiting for the results but as much as I didn't enjoy the experience I'll definitely get another check up to act responsibly.
* A gynae or GP will normally provide a cover as this also helps you to relax.
And how soon can she expect her results?
The nurse said Noluthando can pop by after a week.
We asked one of the nurses, Nosiviwe Ndlela for some tips on how young women can prepare for their first pap test.
Are you up-to-date with your cervical smear test? Chat to us here.