What Should You Know About Cervical Cancer Screening

What Should You Know About Cervical Cancer Screening

Dec 13
What Should You Know About Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer screening can help identify and treat cervical cancer in the early stages. This is one of the most common and dangerous cancers in women. In the US, over 13,000 million women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018. And, thousands of these women are expected to die from this cancer each year. Cervical cancer is very dangerous. But you can prevent its development by regular screening and effective treatment. Here is what you need to know.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a cancer that occurs in the cervix, where the uterus connects with the vagina. It is caused by a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). There are various types of HPV. But only high-risk HPV types, such as HPV 16 and 18 can cause cervical cancer. Low-risk HPV types, like HPV 6 and 11, cause genital warts, which pose no risk to cancer.  

Other factors that can put you at risk for cervical cancer are:

  • Smoking
  • Having a suppressed immune system
  • HIV infection
  • Chlamydia infection
  • Being overweight
  • Long-term use of oral contraceptives or IUD use
  • Having three or more full-term pregnancies
  • Having a family history of cervical cancer

Common symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Abnormal bleeding after intercourse
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Low back pain or pelvic pain
  • Kidney failure

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Read more: Top 8 Common Reasons for Painful Intercourse

What is cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix

What are screening tests for cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is slow growing. And often, it can take around ten years for precancerous cells to develop into cancer.

Cervical cancer screening is key to detect and treat the cancer in its earlier stages. Here are 3 screening tests doctors may recommend to find cervical cancer early.

The HPV test

This test is used to check for the HPV type that can cause cell changes on the cervix.

The Pap test

This test helps look for abnormal cell changes on the cervix. If not treated appropriately, they can progress into cancer.

The LBC test

This is a new test for detecting cervical cancer. Unlike the Pap test, it collects cytological samples in liquid vials and is analyzed in the lab.

These tests can be done in a clinic or doctor’s office. Test results can take up to 3 weeks.

Read more: 6 Common Parts of the Body That Can Be Infected with HPV

The Pap test is used to look for abnormal cell changes on the cervix

The Pap test is used to look for abnormal cell changes on the cervix

What do your cervical cancer screening test results mean?

Your cervical cancer screening tests will come back with one of the following results:

Normal

This means there were no cell changes on the cervix.

Unclear

This result means you seem to have abnormal cells on your cervix. It could relate to an infection like HPV, herpes or yeast infection. Hormonal changes due to lifestyle changes or pregnancy can also affect test results.

Abnormal

This result means cell changes were found on the cervix. However, receiving this test result does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. It could show the following:

  • Atypical glandular cells
  • Mild dysplasia
  • Moderate or severe dysplasia

To confirm these results, you may need further tests, such as a biopsy of the cervix.

Read more: How to Read HPV Test and Pap Test Results

How to read your cervical cancer screening test results

How to read your cervical cancer screening test results

Who should get screened and how often?

Depending on your age and medical history, a doctor will make recommendations for regular screening.

Women ages 21 to 29

These women should have a Pap test every three years.

Women ages 30 to 65

These women should have a Pap test in conjunction with an HPV test every 5 years. Or, if you prefer a Pap test alone, do it every 3 years.

Women ages 65 and above

Women after the age 65 can stop screening if they have normal screening test results in the last 10 years. But if they have moderate or severe cell changes, they should continue being screened until 20 years since the date cancer was found.

Ask your doctor about how often you should be screened and how to prepare.

A doctor can treat cervical cancer by some ways, depending on your stage:

  • Cryotherapy
  • Laser therapy
  • LEEP procedure
  • Conization
  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

Talk with your doctor about which treatment is best for you.

See your doctor to detect and treat cervical cancer early

See your doctor to detect and treat cervical cancer early

Regular screening is the most important thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer. These tests can detect precancerous changes in the cells on the cervix, which can be treated before cancer ever grows. In fact, most invasive cancer occurs in women who have not had regular cervical cancer screening.

Read more: Top 8 Medical Tests Women Should Do When They’re in 30s

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