Cervical Cancer Detection
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Cervical cancer or cancer of the cervix is a severe disease of cancerous development in the canal in the lower uterus that attaches to the top of the vagina. This disease is divided into several stages as per the advancement of the disease. This malignant disease may be life-threatening in case it advances to the last stage.
Most common type of this cancer is squamous cell carcinomas, which is characterized by the disorder developing in the outer lining of the cervix. Rarely any other cervix cells other than the glandular or squamous epithelial cells are affected by the malignancy growth.
The detection of the disease may take decades as the disease is asymptomatic in the initial stages and develops gradually to cause any prominent warning signs of cervix cancer. Until screening, the cervical cancer detection becomes very difficult. There may be a few risk factors for the disease to occur such as human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that usually transfers during sexual contact with an affected person.
Guidelines for Early Detection of Cervix Cancer:
'Prevention is always better than cure' these are the golden words and one has to follow it throughout life to maintain a healthier approach to any disease. However, cervix cancer prevention of the disease from advancing is vital and may reduce the instances of the disease and mortality rate as well.
- Cervix cancer screening is recommended for every woman within 3 years from the start of her sexual life. Pap test is advised every year for women.
- At the age of 30, a woman who has 3 negative Pap test results may adopt a routine of regular Pap test every 2-3 years. Also, a woman may take a HPV DNA test with every Pap test.
Tests for Detection of Cervical Cancer
- Papanicolaou (Pap) Test: This is the most effective test to detect cervical cancer in the early stages. Any abnormal changes related to pre cancerous development may be seen through this test. The test is done with the use of a speculum to keep the vagina open for observation and then a few cells are scraped from the cervix for screening. This test can further be performed in two ways:
- Conventional: This is less expensive, and the technique follows a mechanism of scraping cells from the cervix and directly placing them on a glass slide for lab examination. However, in this case, the cells may overlap and mucus may hinder the clear view of the cervical cells. In such cases, the test may need to be repeated.
- Liquid-Based Pap Test: The procedure remains the same with the exception of the scraped cells being directly placed on to the glass slide. In this test, they are put in a preservative fluid and then in the lab the cells are spread over a glass slide for observation. This is more accurate test and may rarely be repeated.
- HPV DNA Test: As HPV is a significant risk factor of the disease, presence of the types of HPV responsible for causing cancer of the cervix may be detected through this test. The technique of this test is similar to Pap test and it may also accompany a Pap test or may be performed after a Pap test with abnormal results.
- Colposcopy: In case, a woman's Pap examination results show abnormal pre-cancerous changes, then she may need to take colposcopy test. This test is done with the help of colposcope placed externally that has magnifying lenses allowing the doctor to have clear and close observation of the cervix. To aid the view of cervix, the doctor may apply an acetic acid to it.
- Cervical Biopsy: This examination is required if the colposcopic observation of the cervix shows any abnormal areas. Biopsies may be a little uncomfortable and cause cramping or mild pain in the affected area. There are different types of biopsies such as colposcopic biopsy that is performed during colposcopy, cone biopsy, wherein a cone-shaped mass is removed for examination and endocervical curettage wherein endoocervical tissues are examined.
Cancer of the cervix may be a major health problem that can bring life at stake. However, early cervical cancer detection is a key to reduce the mortality through this cancer. There are various simple laboratory tests to diagnose the disease and its stage. Pap test is the most common and popular test that allows early detection of pre-cancerous growth in the cervix region. Hence, to help early detection regular cervical examinations are recommended for women above 30 years.