Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Tests Women Should Undergo For Cervical Cancer

January is cervical cancer awareness month. It is a cancer which is curable and preventable with early detection and proper treatment. Advanced screening in cervical cancer can help detect any abnormalities in the cervix and its cells.

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Tests Women Should Undergo For Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is curable and preventable with early detection and proper treatment

Cervical Cancer is a cancer of the cervix (the lower end of the womb- uterus) in women that affects the tissues of the cervix and can spread to other parts like the vagina, bladder, rectum, and even to the lungs. Cervical Cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among women. According to WHO (World Health Organization), human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the most common cause of cervical cancer. Human Papillomavirus is the cause of cervical cancer, and it is transmitted through sexual contact. HPV can be treated easily at an early stage but, if not treated it can slowly develop into cervical cancer, causing some serious complications. 

Fortunately, with effective vaccination, regular screening, and the availability of advanced tests, the conditions are getting better, and the death rate has gone lower. However, it is important for women to undergo screening for cervical cancer after a certain age. Women who are above the age of 35 are most likely to develop chances of getting cervical cancer, but with regular screening, it is possible to diagnose cervical cancer at an early age and treat it on time. 

Screening methods to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is curable and preventable with early detection and proper treatment. Advanced screening in cervical cancer can help detect any abnormalities in the cervix and its cells. Regular screening can also help in eliminating the risk of HPV and other precancerous changes that can develop into cancer. Some of the broadly used diagnostic methods that can help prevent and reduce the risk of cervical cancer in women are:

Papanicolaou test (Pap smear): A PAP test is a regular pelvic examination to detect any change in the cervical cells that can lead to cervical cancer. The doctor will collect cells from the surface of the cervix to delete anything unusual that can help early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. PAP test is usually recommended for women at 30 years & above. It can be repeated after five years combined with HPV testing if required. Your doctor might ask you for frequent testing if there are any risks involved.

VIA Screening: Visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid (VIA) can help detect cervical lesions. The cost-effective method is for women between 26-30 years, which involves simple treatment and effective diagnosis of early symptoms of cervical cancer. Women that are found VIA positive are treated through cryotherapy immediately after cervical biopsy. VIA helps confirmation of precancerous lesions in the cervix area. This effective and inexpensive method can be a boon for women in remote areas with limited resources. 

HPV Testing: The human papillomaviruses (HPV) is the cause of cervical cancer in 99% of cases. The HPV testing helps in detecting the presence of HPV, the virus responsible for cervical cancer in most women. Early detection of HPV can help you reduce the risk of cervical cancer and help you find the best option for further treatment. HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer at least takes 10 years to turn into cancer, therefore, giving you enough time for diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes your doctor might recommend you PAP & HPV test combined as well, do not worry about it as it is a normal procedure just for surety.

After Screening: Depending on your screening result you may be asked to monitor your situation if the doctor finds anything doubtful. The healthcare care expert may also ask you to undergo follow-up procedures like Colposcopy, Biopsy, Removal of abnormal cervical cells, or might recommend another specialist. 

How often women should undergo screening

Cervical cancer screening is an essential part of women's health and should be a necessary routine screening for every woman. Regardless of when you first started having sex, you should begin screening at the age of 21. The age and medical history will determine how often you should get cervical cancer screening, and which tests you should have. 

  • Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. 
  • For women aged 25 to 29, HPV testing alone can be considered, but Pap tests are also preferred. 
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 can undergo a Pap test plus an HPV test (co-testing) every 5 years or they can undergo a Pap test alone every 3 years and an HPV testing every 5 years.

Cervical cancer screenings are important and should be done regularly after consulting with the doctor. Cervical Cancer is a slow cancer and can be treated if detected on time. Be a responsible woman, get tested, take necessary treatment, and win this fight against cervical cancer, which is still causing the deaths of several women globally. 

(Dr Abhijeet Kotabagi, Surgical Oncologist, Manipal Hospital, Gurugram)

.