Cervical cancer is a cancer that forms in the tissues of the cervix – the organ that connects the uterus and the vagina, it usually grows slowly over a period of time. There are two forms of cervical cancer. The first is squamous cell carcinoma that develops on the outer surface of the ectocervix – the area of the cervix that project into the vagina. The other form of cervical cancer is called adenocarcinoma that forms on endocervix – the inner area of the cervix. As cancer cells multiply, some may invade the cervix lining and spread to nearby tissues, and enter the lymphatic system. When this happens, it can spread to other parts of the body.
Risk factor associated with cervical cancer:
– Failure to receive regular smear test screening
– Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
– Intercourse at an early age and multiple sexual partners
– HIV/AIDS immunosuppressive disorders
– Family history
Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death, but because more women are undergoing screening the number of deaths has decreased significantly over the past 40 years. Today cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women worldwide. Over 500,000 women die of cervical cancer annually. But cervical cancer is preventable, with regular screening test and follow-up.
Screening methods for cervical cancer:
Liquid-based cytology – a nurse or doctor will scrape the cervix with a small brush to collect cells. The head of this brush is then detached and preserved in liquid, before being sent to a laboratory to be analyzed for cell abnormalities.
Cervical smear test – also known as Pap Test (Papanicolaou test) is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old. It is a method of screening used to detect potentially pre-cancerous processes in the endocervical canal of the woman. Collected cells will be analyzed under a microscope for any changes or abnormalities. It is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available.
Colposcopy – a colposcope or a special magnifying device is used to look at the cervix. It is usually done when the result of Pap test is abnormal.
Cervical biopsy – if a problem is seen during colposcopy, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) will be taken from inside the opening of the cervix and looked under a microscope.
HPV test – Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection. HPV test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix. This test will show whether a high-risk types of HPV is present.
Cervical Test preparation guide:
Cervical test should not be scheduled at the time of menstrual period. You should try to make your screening appointment in the middle of your menstrual cycle if possible. If you are going to have a test in the next two days—
• Do not douche (rinse the vagina with water or another fluid).
• Do not use a tampon.
• Do not have sex.
• Do not use a birth control foam, cream, or jelly.
• Do not use a medicine or cream in your vagina.
Cervical cancer in its early stages proves to be difficult because it usually doesn’t present any symptoms. It is not until the cancer becomes invasive that symptoms occur such as abnormal bleeding after sexual intercourse, during menopause or between periods. Heavy or prolonged periods, and unusual discharge with pain during sex. The fact that cervical cancer in its early stages rarely presents any symptoms highlights the importance of regular cervical cancer screening.
Have your first Cervical smear test when you’re 21. If your test results are normal, you can wait for three years for your next Pap test. HPV test are not recommended for screening women younger than 30 years. When you turn 30 you have an option. If your test results are normal, get a Pap test every 3 years or get both Pap test an HPV test every 5 years. You can stop getting screened if you are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for many years or your cervix was removed during surgery for a non-cancerous condition like myoma.
Cervical cancer screening can help reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Screening test can find abnormal cells so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. The cervical smear test or Pap test looks for changes in cells in the cervix that could turn into cancer if left untreated. HPV test looks for the virus that causes these cell changes. Diagnosis and treating abnormal cells in its early stage can prevent most cervical cancer.