Cervical cancer is a common cancer suffered by many women across the globe. It happens when the cervix has an unmanageable number of abnormal cells. When not checked, such abnormal cells can spread and progress to advanced stages, possibly becoming deadly. The majority of cervical cancer takes place because of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be obtained through sexual contact with somebody who has it. HPV comes in many forms and not all of them can cause cervical cancer. This is the reason screening is essential.
Screening for cervical cancer is available at a womens’ health clinic. This helps reduce the incidence of this cancer and allows for early treatment initiation.
What are Cervical Cancer Screenings?
Cervical screenings detect abnormal cells or tissues in the cervix before the development of cancer. A pap smear and an HPV test are two of the most robust tests performed. Both tests involve brushing the cervix to collect cells. A pap smear involves analyzing the cells for abnormalities that range from pre cancer to cancer. Meanwhile, an HPV test works by finding the HPV virus on a woman’s cervix, focusing on strains 16 and 18, along with other kinds that could lead to cervical cancer.
Importance of Cervical Cancer Screenings
Most women who are sexually active can be exposed to HPV. Regular screenings increase the chances of detecting cancer early when it can be successfully treated. In addition, screenings help prevent a lot of cancers by detecting abnormal cell changes. This allows providers to come up with a treatment plan before these cells can become cancerous.
When to Start the Screening
To prevent and detect cervical cancer early, patients should start getting screened at age 21. This is the best age women should visit their provider for a yearly pelvic examination. For this age group, a pap smear should be done every 3 years until they reach the age of 29.
If a woman’s testing has been normal, she can get an HPV test at age 30. She can get screened every 3 years or a combination of an HPV test and a pap smear every 5 years. Those who are aged 30-65 years old and have no history of an HPV infection can get an HPV test every 3 years.
Those who have an abnormal pap or a history of HPV 16 or 18 may be recommended to get a colposcopy to be evaluated further. With this procedure, their provider can examine their cervix and vagina with a microscope. Then, the provider will take biopsies of abnormal tissue to identify and eliminate pre-cancerous lesions.