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Be gentle, doc - Medical practitioners urged to take more care in administering Pap smears

Published:Monday | April 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Yulit Gordon, executive director, Jamaica Cancer Society, speaks at the Editors Forum on Cancer Awareness Month on Wednesday, April 4.

Recognising that out of fear, Pap smears are painful, many women shy away from the possibly life-saving procedure, an appeal is being made to medical practitioners to be gentle when carrying out the test.

Pap smear screening could help women detect early signs of cervical cancer, and Yulit Gordon, executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society, said yesterday that it was important for women to feel comfortable undergoing screening.

Gordon was speaking with The Gleaner during the Jamaica Cancer Society's 2018 Lecture Series, held in honour of the Dr Joseph St Elmo Hall at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew.

"The Jamaica Cancer Society is encouraging physicians to be very gentle with the patients when they come to access Pap smear screening because the fear factor is a very real one. Having recognised that barrier, medical personnel need to take extra care delivering this service," she said.

Agreeing with Gordon, Lehurse Webster, specialist nurse from the Clarendon Health Department, pointed out that if compassion is shown to patients, women would have more positive stories to pass on to friends, giving them confidence to take the test.

"There is this fear that it is hurtful. From one patient to the other, they pass on this kind of information, making others not want to do the Pap smear. Sometimes it is really because the provider is not as gentle and encouraging as they should be," Webster said.

"During the Pap smear, you use a metal object, a speculum, that is inserted inside the vaginal canal to open the passage so the practitioner can see the cervix. Because the speculum is something that is wound up, winding it back down, if you are not careful, you can pinch the client. If you are careful enough, though, and you talk to the patient along the way, asking them to inhale and relax, the job would be much smoother."

Highlighting the importance of the test, senior United States-based gynaecologic oncologist Dr Julian Schink, who was the keynote speaker at the lecture, said that in order to prevent cervical cancer spreading outside the cervix, women must test often.

"Seventy per cent of patients, when they first present themselves for treatment, they have the disease already spread outside of the cervix. I recommend Pap smear screening on a regular basis. That is the most important step by far in preventing the cancer. If there is evidence of the cancer, the test will detect it while it is still confined to the cervix, preventing a spread."