Cervical Cancer CAN be avoided
The thought of cervical cancer is a particularly alarming one for all women, since no one knows exactly how it is caused. Many factors appear to be involved and not all of these will be present for every woman.
Pic courtesy: http://www.healthcare-online.org/Cervical-Cancer-Symptoms.html
Why have a Cervical Smear Test?
Cervix is the lowermost part of the uterus. If detected early, the majority of cervical cancer cases can be avoided and the disease can be halted. Unfortunately, during the early stages there are no signs to tell a woman that she may be at risk. One of the simple ways to detect it, is by having a cervical smear test (also called a PAP SMEAR). Once it is discovered, treatment to counteract can be initiated. The early warning signals can be detected, which if left untreated could lead to cancer.
What is a Cervical Smear Test?
A smear test is a very simple way of checking the health of the cervix. By looking at the smear, experts can confirm if the cervix is normal and healthy, or abnormal. Presence of abnormal cells suggests cancer may develop in the future.
When to have the Smear Test?
- Women between the ages of 20 – 60 years should do the test every 3 years.
- Women who have excess / recurrent attacks of vaginal discharge or bleeding after sexual intercourse should do the test, regardless of their age.
- It should be done within 10 days of the onset of periods.
- There should be no bleeding at the time of the test.
How is a Smear Test done?
The smear test is a simple out patient procedure where the gynaecologist scrapes some of the cells from the cervix (the neck of the uterus), and smears it on a glass slide and sends it to the lab for examination.
What happens after the Test?
It takes 3-4 days to get the results from the lab. If the smear test is normal, (as it is in a majority of cases), then it should be repeated after 3 years.
If the test discloses some “abnormalities”, this usually means that some changes have occurred in the cells, which, if left untreated, could develop into cancer after many years. Remember, most women who have had an abnormal smear test are successfully treated.
Once treatment is started, it will be necessary to repeat the test after some months. If the subsequent smear tests are normal, then the tests should be done every 3 years.
If, however, the subsequent smear tests are not normal and continue to show some abnormalities, then it will be necessary to investigate further.
One of the easiest and most accurate ways of studying the cervix and confirming the disease is by undergoing a Colposcopy.
Colposcopy is an in-depth examination of the cervix, through a special microscope called a colposcope. A colposcope acts like a magnifying glass with a light and allows the doctor to have a closer look at the cervix.
What happens during Colposcopy?
A Colposcopy examination is an out patient procedure, just like the smear test. A solution is applied to the cervix, which will cause any problem areas to turn white. The cervix is then viewed through the colposcope, which is placed just outside the vagina. If there are any abnormal areas on the cervix, a tiny sample of tissue is taken (biopsy) and sent to the lab for further testing.
There is no need for an overnight stay in the hospital after a Colposcopy. As mentioned earlier, it is an out patient procedure. If some tissue is taken from your cervix, you may experience some mild cramping or light bleeding for a few days, which can be relieved by any anti-inflammatory medication. It is advisable to abstain from sexual intercourse for a few days after a biopsy.
he results of the biopsy will determine the course of action to be taken. Feel free to talk to your gynaecologist about the type of treatment, the duration, and the options available.