A large number of women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Ironically, it is one of the most preventable cancers. What most women fail to understand is that cervical cancer can be prevented if detected at an early stage. This is possible if the cells undergoing abnormal changes are identified and treated well before cervical cancer takes root.
The cellular changes that eventually lead to cancer are brought about by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which spreads through sexual contact.
So, what cervical cancer tests should one undergo to be on the safer side?
Pap smear test
What is a pap smear?
A pap smear test is used to detect changes in the cells of the cervix.
What to expect?
A pap smear is generally performed with a non-invasive brush or a spatula to collect the cells. The cells are collected from the cervical canal and vaginal area to get a sample of squamous and glandular cells. The sample is sent to the laboratory to be evaluated for any abnormal changes.
For a pap smear test, you will be positioned on the examination table in a comfortable position. With the help of an instrument called the speculum, the vagina will be opened which will allow the doctor to get a view of the cervix and the upper vagina. Then the cells will be collected using a brush or a spatula.
When should get pap smear tests done?
You must start with the pap smear test from age 21.
What is an HPV test?
This cervical cancer test is done to detect any types of HPV which may lead to cervical cancer. The HPV test is done in along with the pap smear test.
What to expect?
The process of an HPV test is similar to the pap smear test.
When should you begin testing for HPV?
Any woman above the age of 30 years should start with this test. The frequency of getting these tests done may be discussed with your gynecologist.
Can cervical cancer vaccine help?
The cervical cancer vaccine, also known as the HPV vaccine, is recommended for both girls and boys of age 11 or 12 years. The vaccine should be administered before the individual has had any sexual contact. The response to the cervical cancer vaccine is better if administered at a younger age.