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Unawareness and Skipping A Pap Smear Test Can Increase Cervical Cancer Rates

Unawareness and Skipping A Pap Smear Test Can Increase Cervical Cancer Rates

By Dr Manisha Ranjan, Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Motherhood Hospital, Noida

Cervix of a woman is the mouth of the uterus which is examined through vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal or pre-cancerous cells start to develop. The human cervix has two parts ectocervix which is of a healthy pink color and is covered in flat thin squamous cells as well as endocervix which is the cervical canal and is made up of columnar cells. The area where endocervix and ectocervix meet is the transformation zone which is the most likely region where abnormal and pre-cancerous cells can develop.

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer

The leading cause of cervical cancer is Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible in about 70-80% of cervical cancer cases. There are over 100 different types of HPV which are considered low risk and do not result in cervical cancer. Nonetheless the high-risk cancer types are HPV-16 and HPV-18 and if a woman has persistent HPV infection then she must see a doctor immediately as they are at a greater risk of developing cervical cell abnormalities

Significance of Pap Test

Precancerous cervical cell do not cause any prominent symptoms which is why regular screening through Pap and HPV tests is recommended. They can catch precancerous cells early and prevent the development of cervical cancer.

Look for these signs to know if you have cervical cancer or not

The possible symptoms of advanced cervical cancer are:

  • Abnormal bleeding that includes bleeding between regular menstrual periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse, bleeding after menopause, bleeding after douching and bleeding after a pelvic exam
  • Pelvic pain that is not related to menstrual cycle
  • Unusual or heavy discharge that is watery, thick or foul smelling
  • Pain during urination as well as increased urinary frequency

These symptoms can also be a result of some other condition than cancer so please see your doctor to know what it is.

Risk Factors

  • Women who do these following things are at a higher risk of cervical cancer than others.
  • Girls who started having early sex
  • Take birth control pills for more than 10yrs increases about fourfold chances of cervical cancer only in women who are HPV positive
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Women who are sexually active with more than one partner
  • Women who have been diagnosed with STD's (Sexually Transmitted Disease)


Cervical Cancer Exams and Diagnosis

Papinicolaou test (Pap Smear) is an advanced form of cervical cancer screening which is a part of woman's regular screening exam. The procedure is as follows as the doctor collects cells from the surface of your cervix and looks at them under the microscope. After this if anything unusual is spotted then they will extract a bit of cervical tissue for biopsy which will help in further examination.

Another method is colposcopy in which the doctor will stain your cervix with a harmless dye or acetic acid to improve visibility of abnormal cells. After that the doctor will use a colposcope to magnify your cervix by 8 to 15 times to look for unusual cells.

One more method is the Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) wherein the doctor uses an electrified loop of wire to take a sample tissue of your cervix for a biopsy  Long standing HPV infection may cause the cells to turn into cancer by forming into a tumor over time. Regular Pap smear will help in early detection of cervical cancer so that it can be diagnosed and treated

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