Screening is the only way to detect early changes in cells that might lead to cervical cancer. Though the vast majority of cervical cancers are due to exposure to HPV, in women who are sexually active, it can also occur in women who have not beensexually active. Throughout the world, screening tests are available through most health care services including clinics, cancer societies and other non-profit organizations.
SCREENING METHODS FOR CERVICAL CANCER
The pap test or pap smear is done to collect a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix. It may be done as part of a pelvic examination. A pap involves the person lying on their back on the examination table while a nurse or doctor gently inserts a speculum into the vagina. She/he will examine the surface of the cervix, and then use a tiny spatula or brush to scrape a small sample of cells from the wall of the cervix.
This test can be slightly uncomfortable or painful. The doctor or nurse may test for STIs and may also physically examine reproductive organs by gently applying pressure around your lower abdomen.
The PAP sample will be sent to the lab for analysis. If your results are normal, it means there have been no changes in your cervical cells. If the results read “unclear,” “abnormal” or” inconclusive,” it means that some cells may not look normal and require further follow-up to determine if any action is necessary. This does not necessarily mean the cells are cancerous.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) Test
The HPV test uses the same procedure as a pap test. In fact, samples can be collected at the same time the pap test is being done, and both tests can be conducted together.
The HPV test may detect different abnormal cells than the pap can detect, so if possible, it may be safest to have both. The sample is likewise sent to the lab for analysis, where the presence or absence of high-risk types of the HPV virus is determined. The results are either “positive” if those high-risk virus types are detected, or “negative” if they are not.