Screening is considered as the second step for decreasing the risk of Cervical Cancer (the first step is vaccination; it protects against HPV-16 and HPV-18). When talking about Cervical Cancer screening, we refer to these three methods:
- Pap smears
- HPV testing
Pap Smears: Also known as Pap Test, is a procedure to detect anomalies on the cells of the cervix, which could determine the presence of cervical cancer in women.
This procedure 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 over 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.
The results can be delivered in the next seven days and could be:
- Negative: If only normal cervical cells were discovered during your Pap smear. You won’t need any further treatment or testing until you’re due for your next Pap smear and pelvic exam, it’s important to discuss with your doctor in case other medications need to be taken for another issue.
- Positive: If abnormal or unusual cells were discovered during your Pap smear, you’re said to have a positive result.
A positive result doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. What a positive result means depends on the type of cells discovered in your test. These anomalies could be:
- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
- Squamous intraepithelial lesion
- Atypical glandular cells
- Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells
In case of having one of these anomalies, the next procedure could be a colposcopy, using a special magnifying instrument (colposcope) to examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva. (We will explain the colposcopy in more detail below)
Your doctor may also take a tissue sample (biopsy) from any areas that appear abnormal. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis and a definitive diagnosis.
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.
Recommended when a pap test presents abnormal results. or when it’s inconclusive. Colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine the cervix for signs of disease using a colposcope. It can be used to diagnose:
- Genital warts
- Inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis)
- Precancerous changes in the tissue of the cervix
- Precancerous changes in the tissue of the vagina
- Precancerous changes of the vulva
At Empowered Health & Cancer Wellness, our goals are to increase social consciousness and knowledge around cancer, and to encourage healthy SELF-CARE preventive practices. .
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Talk with a specialist and make an appointment for your test. The power of a healthy lifestyle is in our hands.