Did you know cervical cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer that affects women globally? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports, around 12,000 new cervical cancer cases are in the US daily. Cervical screening is a well-known way to detect abnormal changes in the cervix. Cervical screening identifies the anomalies that can lead to cervical cancer if didn’t get treatment on time. Earlier cervical screening has reduced the data on women with cervical cancer who die from it.
In this blog, you will learn about cervical cancer, cervical screening, and related tests. Stay safe and healthy using a free prescription discount card as you begin this journey to discover cervical screening.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer begins in the cervix cells. The cervix is part of a women’s reproductive system. It is present in the lower and joins the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).
Diagnosing it at early stages is challenging because you may not notice any symptoms. Therefore regular cervical screening is crucial. It helps rule out diseases. It can detect early precancerous cell changes before symptoms even start. It becomes easy to cure it in the early stage.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- Experiencing vaginal bleeding between or following periods or after intercourse
- Heavier or more extended menstrual periods than usual
- Extreme pain during intercourse
- Different vaginal discharge in terms of odor or color
- Bleeding even after menopause
- Ache in the back or pelvic area
Risk factors for cancer of the cervix
The human papillomavirus (HPV) considers a significant risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV is a virus that transmits between individuals during sex. It means if your body is carrying HPV, you’re at higher risk of having cervix cancer.
There are additional factors that can increase the risk of cervical cancer. It includes:
- Sexual activity with multiple partners
- Compromised immune system
Cervical screening and related tests
As discussed above, cervical screening is a method to detect cervix cancer. It includes these two different tests:
The HPV test
HPV test only helps detect whether there is a presence of human papillomavirus. This virus can develop genital warts or abnormal cervical cells. Healthcare professionals recommend these tests to those:
- Whose Pap test is not normal, showing atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
- If you are 30 years old.
Also, HPV tests can detect HPV in women only. There is no HPV test exist for men. But it doesn’t mean they cannot contract HPV. They usually transmit it to their sex partner.
Why is an HPV test done?
Undoubtedly HPV is a cervical screening test, but it doesn’t tell if you have cervical cancer. It only indicates the presence of HPV. If it shows HPV, you’re at higher risk of cervical cancer. Your doctor can suggest you take the necessary steps in your treatment.
The Pap test (or Pap smear)
The main idea behind the pap test is to find out whether cervix cells are healthy. If any abnormal cervix cells get detected in the test result, these cells can be cancerous. But usually, precancerous cells show changes, which means these cells could develop into cervix cancer.
Both tests help in regular pelvic exams. You can do it together, but they do not have to be. Doctors recommend that starting at age 21, women get a Pap test every three years until they turn 29. Between the ages 30 and 65, women can use different screening schedules, which include a Pap test every 3 years, an HPV test every 5 years, or both tests every 5 years.
What happens during a cervical screening?
Cervical screening includes a pelvic examination. During this screening, the healthcare provider uses an instrument, a speculum, to open the vagina, which helps examine the cervix. Provider further collects the cells sample from the cervix by putting a small brush-like tool into the vagina. The collected cells further send to the laboratory for HPV and Pap tests.
Cervical screening is not painful, but some can feel mild discomfort. It doesn’t take more than a minute, so any pain usually disappears quickly.
You must undergo cervical screening if you are 30 and even if you have no symptoms. There is no alternative to being healthy. Regular screening can help determine if something is going wrong in your body. Even if you had the HPV vaccine, you still require routine cervical screening. When diagnosed early, cervical cancer has a 5-year relative survival rate of 91%.
Cervical screening is paramount for women’s health; early detection can save lives. Always follow your healthcare provider’s advice and recommendations regarding screening intervals and necessary follow-up care based on your health status. If you’re worried about medicinal expenses, you can use a free pharmacy discount card like WiseRx card to get prescribed medicine at a discounted price.
1. What is cervical screening, and why do I need it?
Cervical screening is a crucial test to detect abnormalities in cervix cells. Regular screening can help identify precancerous changes and ensure timely intervention.
2. What happens if my Pap test is abnormal?
If your Pap test shows abnormal results, it may indicate precancerous changes or other issues. Further diagnostic tests, like colposcopy or HPV testing, may be recommended to determine the cause and plan appropriate follow-up care.
3. Can cervical screening prevent cervical cancer?
Yes, cervical screening can help prevent cervical cancer by detecting and treating abnormalities before they develop into cancerous conditions.