Although not as common as breast cancer, cervical cancer is a tangible threat to women. About 1 in 152 women are expected to develop cervical cancer in her lifetime, and 1 in 425 will die of it. The symptoms of cervical cancer can be hard to detect, as sometimes the changes associated with cells of the cervix repair themselves, while other times they do not. Having regular pelvic exams and Pap tests can increase the likelihood that abnormal changes to cervical cells can be caught early. Today, Novus will walk you through the basics of what you need to know about cervical cancer.
How Often Should I Check?
Currently, cervical cancer screening guidelines vary slightly from province to province and by expert groups. Typically, all previously or currently sexually active women should be screened for cervical cancer (undergo a Pap test and pelvic exam) initially at age 25, and then every three years until the age of 70. After age 70, further screening is typically considered unnecessary as long as there have been three negative Pap test results in the last 10 years.
If you have family history of cervical cancer, a previous abnormal pap test, frequent changes in sexual partners, encounters with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection, or weakened immunity, consider early screening.
What Are Pap Tests and Pelvic Exams?
Pap tests are the most common screening method for cervical cancer. To begin a pelvic exam, your doctor will examine the area outside of your vagina for any abnormalities. Next an instrument called a speculum will be gently inserted into the vagina so the cervix and upper part of your vagina can be seen. Your doctor will be able to visualize your cervix and vagina and observe any irregularities, and connect some cell samples from the upper and lower surfaces of the cervix using a small brush. Collecting a cell sample in this way is called a Pap test. The cells will then be sent to the lab for testing. After the doctor obtains the cell samples, the internal pelvic exam will continue. Placing two gloved fingers into the vagina and using the other hand to apply slight pressure to your belly, the doctor will examine your reproductive organs (i.e., cervix, vagina, uterus, and ovaries) for size, shape, and for the presence of any abnormalities.
Going to your doctor for proper pelvic examinations at the suggested times will help you minimize your risk of cervical cancer. Today’s overview was just a high-level look at cervical cancer.
Concerned about screening? Scan through our guideline.
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