Cervical Cancer: Early Detection is Vital for Successful Treatment | Western Cape Government



Cervical Cancer: Early Detection is Vital for Successful Treatment

27 September 2016

Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it is detected early enough by means of a pap smear.

The Western Cape Government Health advocates for early detection to ensure the best possible outcomes. After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women worldwide with an estimated 500,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. In South Africa cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer amongst our women with 1 in 42 women who get cervical cancer.

Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. There are many types of the HPV virus. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms.

That is why the Department wants to remind women why it is so important to have regular pap smears.

Cervical cancer is a disease in which the cells of the cervix become abnormal and start to form tumors.The symptoms vary from woman to woman. Some women will experience no symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms.  

To detect cervical cancer a pap smear screening is done, to check for changes in the cells of a woman’s cervix. The test is able to identify any abnormalities or infections that may be found in the cells. The advantages of going for regular pap smear check ups is that the earlier the disease is detected, the quicker the treatment may be implemented. All women 30 years and above should be tested for cervical cancer. The Western Cape Department of Health offers 3 free pap smears to all women during her life time.

To prevent cervical cancer women should consciously make healthy lifestyle choices and create an environment that may assist others in choosing a healthy lifestyle. Some preventative measures would be to stop or preferably never start smoking, and to prevent or manage sexually transmitted diseases.


What is a pap smear and why should women have one done?
A Pap smear/Cervical Smear is a procedure whereby a trained professional nurse or doctor takes a sample of cervical mucosa and sends it off for testing to determine whether cancer cells are present.

What do the medical staff look out for when they do a pap smear?
Medical staff perform a full external and internal examination to look out for any visible signs of sexually transmitted infections or any other pathology that will require attention.

What are the common results/prevalent results of pap smears in the Western Cape?
Most results are normal. (No abnormalities detected)

What should women do or not do to avoid negative results of a pap smear

  1. Young women should delay their sexual debut.
  2. Have regular pap smears to ensure early detection
  3. Seek medical help if there are signs and symptoms of infection e.g. Profuse /offensive vaginal discharges, lower abdominal pain, abnormal bleeding etc
  4. Always use condoms
  5. General healthy lifestyle

What are the benefits of going for a pap smear and when must they go for one? 
The benefits are that there will be early detection of cancer cells and or infections and treatment can be commenced earlier. In government facilities all women 30 years and over can have 3 free pap smears at 10 year intervals.

What services are available to the public? (So where can they go and how do they access it?)
Pap smear services are available at all health care facilities Monday to Friday. Some facilities offer extended hour sessions to accommodate working women.

Regular Check Ups) and any other information you may deem relevant that will give the public a holistic picture.
A clinical breast examination is done with every pap smear to detect signs and symptoms of breast cancer.