Pap smears can save lives
OKAY ladies, it's time to ask an awkward question - when was your last pap smear?
Mackay Base Hospital obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kathleen Braniff said most women she sees who have cervical cancer have not had a pap smear in the past 10 years.
"Up to 90% of the most common form of cancer of the cervix could be prevented if women had pap smears every two years," Dr Braniff said.
"I would strongly encourage all women to check whether they are overdue for a smear."
Dr Braniff said women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active should have regular biennial pap smears.
But, she advises women who have never had sex are not excluded from the test.
"Women should have a pap smear every two years after they become sexually active, or from when they turn 20," Dr Braniff said.
"Even women who have the cervical cancer vaccine should have a pap smear every two years."
Queensland Health estimates that more than 300,000 women in the state are now overdue for a pap smear.
"Cervical cancer is preventable," Queensland Health Cancer screening services senior director Jennifer Muller said.
The pap smear detects early changes in the cervix (neck of the womb), before they have a chance to develop into cancer.
"Because it is rare for women to have any sign or symptoms of cervical cancer early in the disease, pap smears are vital," Ms Muller said.
So far this year, Queensland Health's pap smear register has posted about 75,000 reminder letters to Queensland women overdue for a pap smear.
"It's easy to overlook this vital preventative health measure," Ms Muller said.
If you can't remember when you had your last pap smear and would like to know when you are due for your next one, contact the Queensland Health Pap Smear Register on 1800 777 790.