Cervical cancer, which is a type of gynaecological cancer, is one of the most preventable cancers, it is 90% treatable when detected early. It occurs when the cells of the cervix grow uncontrollably and form tumours which can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Most cervical cancer has been associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a sexually transmitted infection, which is usually eliminated by the body, but in some women, can linger for years and go on to cause cervical cancer in the future.
Cervical cancer progresses slowly over a period of approximately 15 years which is why regular screening tests are so effective in its prevention and treatment. The most effective way to prevent cervical cancer is by getting vaccinated against HPV and going for regular screenings.
Cervical cancer screening consists of two screening tests, these are:
Both the pap smear and HPV test collect cells from your cervix in the same way, only the subsequent testing is different.
This is how cells are collected from your cervix:
In a pap smear, the collected cervical cells are viewed under a microscope to check for any cancerous or precancerous characteristics.
In the HPV test, the collected cervical cells are tested for the presence of any cancer-causing HPV strains.
As part of the National Cervical Cancer Screening programme, all women from the age of 25, and who have ever had sex, are advised to go for regular cervical cancer screening. According to HPB, the following are the ages and recommended screenings.
|25 to 29 years||Pap smear/pap test||Every 3 years|
|30 years and above||HPV test||Every 5 years|
There are several things you should avoid before your cervical cancer screening procedure, to ensure that your results are accurate.
After a cervical cancer screening, you can go about your normal day-to-day activities. Your samples will be sent to the laboratory for further testing, depending on the type of screening you are suitable for.
If all is normal, your results will be mailed to you within a few weeks. If anything abnormal is observed in your sample, your gynaecologist will schedule a follow-up and decide on the next steps.
Pap smears are minimally invasive but there are some mild side effects that some women may experience, these are:
Cervical cancer screening is Medisave claimable at approved centres.
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