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Focusing on your reproductive health? We chat to a doctor about this important check up

Pap smears don’t have to be scary, we sit down with Dr Laylah Fayker about this check up and why it matters.

If you’re going for regular check ups, chances are you have to get a pap smear or have avoided setting up your next appointment. There are horror stories out there about how painful it can be, while other women had a completely different experience. However, there’s no doubt that it is a life-saving procedure that can detect abnormalities in your cervix and further health complications down the line. So as anxiety-inducing as it can be, you should be getting one as soon as it’s due.

But if you’ve had a less than pleasant experience, we sat down with Cape Town-based Dr Laylah Fayker about her patient-centred approach and what you need to know about your next appointment

Can you share a little background about how you got into the medical profession and why you chose to pursue this?

I wasn’t one of those people who knew they were going to be a doctor but I’m happy I landed in this profession because I feel very privileged to have a job that I absolutely love.

I come from a small town in the Eastern Cape called Mthatha and I always think about my childhood doctor and how comfortable I felt in their care. My parents encouraged my sister and I to get involved with the community so we were always lending a helping hand at the local mosque. My venn diagram of interests, care for the community and above average marks science ended up in medicine.

You focus on patient-directed care - can you explain what this means and who/what inspired you to take this approach.

I have health concerns of my own and as much as I am a doctor, I am a patient too. I have my own set of “green flags” and “red flags” when it comes to my choice in professionals. I try to keep that in mind when I step into my office.

I’ve worked with some truly wonderful doctors in my career so far and I’m constantly trying to model the healthcare that I offer from their example. The way I speak is simple and relatable, my clients/patients know I spend a lot of time just speaking to them and asking questions and giving them room to do the same.

Consent is another big focus in my practice. I ask my patients if there are any triggers when it comes to their health because I don’t want to perpetuate any negative cycle that they have been in but start a new partnership.

My client/patient and I are a team, we discuss all the feelings and ideas surrounding healthcare together - medication, management plans and even specialist referrals.

How have you adapted your approach to pap smears and can you talk us through it?

Having a pap smear is a very intimate procedure so there has to be trust between the doctor and the client.

When I’m done taking the medical history, I always ask if the patient has had a pap smear before or if it's their first time. I explain the procedure in detail and check with them to see if they’d still want to have it done by me, informed consent is very important.

Prior to the pap smear, I do a general examination led by the history taking, a urine test and a pregnancy test prior to the procedure to ensure we aren’t missing any other potential diagnoses. I then perform a breast examination if requested/indicated on the history.

Some of the pap smears I do are on people who have had terrible experiences and I use it as an opportunity to change their feelings about it. I’m very gentle and constantly check in with them about the process. I take time to show my patients the speculum (device used to get access to visualise the cervix), the Rovers spatula (we’ve moved on from the wooden spatulas) and other instruments that I use.

Some patients need a distraction while the procedure is being done and will watch some Netflix; while others need a detailed step by step as I go through the motions.

How can people book an appointment with you?

My practice is located on the 2nd Floor at 74 Loop Street Cape Town.

I’ll be in Johannesburg from the 3-16th of May 2023 and I’ll have session rooms there for people who would like to consult with me.

Bookings: phone number 0620052300 / email [email protected].

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