Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect women worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, and about 311,000 women die from this disease. However, cervical cancer is preventable, and early detection can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment. In this blog, we will discuss cervical cancer screening and prevention, including the different methods of screening, the importance of regular screening, and the measures that women can take to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. This type of cancer is usually caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes can eventually lead to the development of cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer screening is the process of testing women for abnormal cells on the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer. The purpose of screening is to detect these abnormal cells early, before they become cancerous, and to treat them before they can cause any harm. There are several different methods of cervical cancer screening, including:
- Pap Test: The Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is the most common method of cervical cancer screening. During this test, a healthcare provider collects a sample of cells from the cervix and sends them to a lab for testing. The lab examines the cells for any abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous changes.
- HPV Test: The HPV test is a test that checks for the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical cells. This test is often used in combination with the Pap test or as a follow-up test if the Pap test results are abnormal.
- Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA): The VIA method involves applying a solution of acetic acid to the cervix and examining it for any abnormalities using a magnifying instrument. This method is often used in low-resource settings where Pap tests are not available.
- Visual Inspection with Lugol’s Iodine (VILI): The VILI method involves applying a solution of Lugol’s iodine to the cervix and examining it for any abnormalities using a magnifying instrument. This method is also used in low-resource settings where Pap tests are not available.
The Importance of Regular Screening
Regular cervical cancer screening is important because it can detect abnormal cells on the cervix before they become cancerous. This allows for early treatment, which can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and survival. The British Society for colposcopy and cervical pathology (BSCCP) recommends that women start getting regular HPV tests at age 25 and continue getting them every 3 years until age 49. Women between the ages of 49 and 64 should get an HPV test every 5 years. Women over the age of 64 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not continue screening.
Reducing the Risk of Cervical Cancer
In addition to regular screening, there are several measures that women can take to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer. These measures include:
- Getting the HPV Vaccine: The HPV vaccine is a vaccine that can protect against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12.
- Practicing Safe Sex: Practicing safe sex can reduce the risk of HPV infection