You can help prevent cervical cancer by getting regular screening tests (called Pap smear test) and follow-up care. A simple test can work wonders in detecting cervical cancer and early detection helps prevent and cure cancer. Before a doctor makes the diagnosis for cervical cancer, he or she will tell you to go in for a Pap test, also called a Pap smear test. This is done in a doctor’s office or clinic. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented by regular Pap tests. A Pap smear test can find abnormal (changed) cells before they turn into cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when it usually can be cured.
Cervical cancer is cancer of the uterine cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (or womb). The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina. Abnormal cells in the cervix can turn into cancer if they aren’t found early and treated. Cervical cancer is most common in women over age 30.
A Pap smear test lasts about 2 to 5 minutes. It may feel uncomfortable, but a Pap test doesn’t hurt. While you lie on the exam table, the doctor or nurse will put a medical tool (called a speculum) into your vagina, opening it to see the cervix. She will use a special brush to collect a few cells from the cervix. These cells are sent to a lab to be checked by an expert. The doctor or nurse will also do a pelvic exam to check the uterus, ovaries, and other organs.
Women of ages 21 to 29 need a Pap smear test every 3 years. Women of ages 30 to 65 need to get screened every 3 or 5 years, depending on how they are tested. If your doctor or nurse gives you just a Pap smear test, get screened every 3 years. If your doctor or nurse gives you a Pap smear test and an HPV test, get screened every 5 years. If you are 66 years of age or older, ask your doctor if you need to get tested for cervical cancer. Testing for cervical cancer is very affordable and it costs as less as Rs. 300- 350/-.
Try to schedule your Pap smear test for a time when you won’t have your period. For 2 days before your test, doctors recommend that you don’t:
• Use tampons
• Have sex
• Use birth control creams, foams, or jellies
• Douche (rinse the vagina with water or other liquid)
A major cause of cervical cancer is HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is the most common STD (sexually transmitted disease). Some types of HPV can cause genital warts or anal cancer. Other types of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
You are at higher risk of getting HPV if you:
• Started having sex before age 18
• Have unprotected sex
• Have many different sex partners
• Have a sex partner who has other sex partners
*Inputs from Dr. Vandana Gawdi, Senior Consultant, Gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital, Vashi
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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