This is used to check for changes in the cells at the cervix (the top part of the vagina) which may result in cancer. Cervical cancer occurs when the cells become abnormal and grow out of control. It may also spread to other organs. It is caused by infection with the HPV that can affect the cells. HPV is very common and transferred via sexual activity. HPV is very common and can affect most people at some point in their life. Most infections clear off soon and they cause only mild changes. But not in some cases. There are two types of HPV low grade/risk which may only cause warts, etc., and high grade/risk which can lead to precancerous cells. The cervical cancer screening test can begin at the age of 25 and can be repeated every 5 years.
Usually, it takes around 3 to 7 years for these cells to become cancerous. Hence cervical screening can also be defined as a test to help prevent cancer as it helps identify the presence of these cells and take the measures to prevent them from becoming cancerous.
The tests and procedure for cervical cancer
There are two types of test-
-Pap test/Pap smear/cervical cytology – this test looks for cells that may become cancerous.
-HPV(human papillomavirus) test– this checks for the presence of the virus that can cause cancer.
For the test, an instrument speculum will be used to widen the vagina with the help of which the doctor will be able to view the cervix and collect cells from the cervix and area around it. The cells will be then tested in the lab. The test is usually not painful but maybe a bit uncomfortable. HPV is the most common reason for cervical cancer but it takes more than 10 years to progress to cancerous cells.
How to prepare for the pap test?
It should not be scheduled when you are having periods. Avoid sex, using tampon, cream, jelly or medicine in the vagina at least two days before the test. This is to prevent false-positive or false-negative results.
At what age should one start for the screening and which test is required?
1)21 – 29 years, you can take a pap test and if it is normal can take the next test after 3 years.
2)30 – 65 years, you can opt from one of these tests
-If you have taken pap test and it is normal next can be taken after 3 years.
-If you have taken HPV test and it is normal next can be taken after 5 years.
-If both combined and it is normal next can be taken after 5 years.
3)Above 65 years – You do not need to undergo screening if you have had normal test results all these years or if you had your cervix removed for any surgery.
The test results may take close to three weeks. The doctor will check your results and update you if any further steps need to be taken. If normal you can wait for another few years before your next screening.
For more details, you may contact us.