Considering that 300 women in Singapore get diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, it’s amazing that there are still lots of women who don’t go for frequent Pap smears.
We don’t mean to sound like a naggy health textbook, but regular Pap smears are crucial for detecting cervical cancer early, because it tends to not exhibit symptoms until it’s too late. Early stage cervical cancer is highly treatable. You can even get vaccinated against cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine!
Come on, people – there’s no reason for cervical cancer to be the 5th most common cancer in Singapore.
In this article we’ll cover what cervical cancer is, how Pap smears work, and (most importantly) where to get a Pap smear done for free or very cheaply in Singapore.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer that occurs in the cervix, which is the bottom-most bit of the uterus, the part that joins it up to the vagina. It happens when the cells in the lining of the cervix begins to grow abnormally and uncontrollably.
The number 1 cause of cervical cancer is HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which accounts for 70% of cervical cancers. HPV is extremely easy to contract. As long as you’ve had sex, even if you’ve only had one sexual partner, even if you have been practicing protected sex, you’re vulnerable to HPV. However, you can get vaccinated against it.
Early stage cervical cancer is virtually symptomless. Pre-invasive cancer often occurs in women in their late 20s to 30s. If left untreated, they can become pre-cancerous lesions, and then invasive cancer. It’s only at the advanced stage that there are symptoms such as abnormal bleeding from the vagina and pelvic pain.
How do Pap smears work?
Pap smears (short for Papanicolaou test) help detect cervical cancer in its early stages, where its easier to treat with surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and you have a stronger chance of survival.
During a Pap smear, the doctor inserts a speculum (a duck-bill shaped instrument) into the vagina, and takes a swab of sample cells from the cervix. The procedure is painless, though it is slightly uncomfortable.
Your cells are then examined for abnormalities. An abnormal result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer though. It just means it’s something that warrants further evaluation by a doctor. This is done through a colposcopy, where the doctor examines the cervix with a microscope to confirm if it’s cervical cancer.
An infection or the thinning of the skin of the cervix after menopause can result in an abnormal Pap smear result, too.
Sexually active women should go for Pap smears from the age of 25 all the way until 65. Because cervical cancer cells grow very slowly, you only need to go for a Pap smear once every 3 years.
Can you get a free Pap smear in Singapore?
There are precious few good things in life that you can get for free, and the Pap smear is one of them. Hooray!
You can get a completely free Pap smear by calling the Singapore Cancer Society at 1800 727 3333 to arrange an appointment.
Alternatively, you can get a Pap smear done for next-to-nothing thanks to the Health Promotion Board. As long as you’re a woman above 25 years old, you can get it done at $5 (Singapore citizen) or $12.25 (PR). You can check your eligibility for the $5 Pap smear here.
|Cost of Pap smear||Who is eligible|
|Free||Anyone. Call Singapore Cancer Society at 1800 727 3333 to arrange|
|$2||Subsidised rate for CHAS card holders|
|$5||Women above 25 (Singaporeans)|
|$12.25||Women above 25 (PRs)|
Where else can you do Pap smears & how much do they cost?
Even if you don’t go for the subsidised/free Pap smears above, they probably cost less than you think. You can also pay for your Pap smear with Medisave, so it won’t even be an out-of-pocket expense.
You can get one done almost anywhere: polyclinics, private GPs, gynaecology clinics, and public and private hospitals. Many women prefer to do it at a gynaecology clinic, or request a female doctor at the GP.
Here’s a list of sample Pap smear prices in Singapore:
|Where||Cost of Pap smear|
|Polyclinic||$15 (Singaporean) / $22.50 (PR) *|
|AcuMed Medical Group (GP)||$20|
|KKH Women’s and Children’s Hospital||$32.50 to $65 (Singaporean) / $48.75 to $65 (PR)|
|Sidek Clinic for Women (gynae)||$40 to $80|
|Asia HealthPartners (GP)||$53.50|
|Kensington Family Clinic (GP)||$60|
|Lisa Wong Women & Gynae Oncology Centre (gynae)||$60|
|Dr Tan and Partners (gynae clinic)||$70|
|Mt Elizabeth Hospital||$60 to $150|
*$40.75 if done less than 3 years after your 1st Pap smear
Some choices in life are complicated, but the Pap smear is one of those rare no-brainers. It costs you almost nothing to get tested. Yet it can cost you everything if you put it off.
Yes, it involves the doctor sticking something up there, but it’s only a few seconds of discomfort, and you only have to do it every 3 years. Don’t you think your life is worth it?
Have you ever gotten a Pap smear? Which clinic would you recommend? Tell us in the comments.