Screening is used to identify precancerous changes or early cancers before they cause signs or symptoms. Scientists have developed and are developing tests that can be used to screen a person for specific types of cancer before symptoms or signs appear. The main motive of cancer screening is to reduce the number of people dying from cancer or eliminate cancer deaths and reduce the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer.Also Read - All About Cervical Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors, What to do And Treatment in India

What Are The Prevention?

Pap tests and HPV tests can detect any precancerous lesions and even cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be avoided by having regular screenings. And it can be prevented by taking the HPV vaccine between the age of 9yrs to 45 yrs. Also Read - Top Three Cancers in Women That We Must be Aware of

The Pap test or Pap smear: Pap test detects precancerous lesions and if they are not treated properly, can develop into cervical cancer in the span of 2 to 10 yrs. Pap tests are jointly performed with a bimanual pelvic exam as part of a gynecologic check-up. A Pap test can also be combined with the HPV test. Also Read - Important Facts About Cervical Cancer

The HPV test: This test is performed on a sample of cells that are removed from the cervix and are tested for the HPV strains most associated with cervical cancer. HPV testing can be done alone or in conjunction with a Pap test.

Visual examination using acetic acid (VIA): ViIA is a simple screening test is done using colposcopy and the naked eye. A dilution of white vinegar is applied to the cervix during the procedure. The abnormal tissue changes colour on the cervix and appears white when exposed to vinegar.

How to Prevent Cervical Cancer?

• Delaying first sexual encounter until late adolescence or older
• Using condoms
• Minimizing sexual partners
• Avoiding sexual encounters with people who have had multiple partners
• Avoiding sexual contact with people who have genital warts or who exhibit other symptoms.
• Avoid smoking

What Are The Recommendations For The Screening of Cervical Cancer?

25% of the Indian population accounts for the whole world cervical cancer. The scientific evidence, risks, and benefits of cervical cancer screening have all been examined by various organizations. Cervical cancer screening choices are becoming increasingly personalized. It is recommended to go for your yearly gyno checkup and get your pap test done. Once the pap test is normal it can be done once in four years, and it is not normal it has to be repeated as per the doctor’s recommendation.

Due to a variety of factors, screening may differ from the recommendations discussed above at times. It is critical to discuss how frequently you should be screened for cervical cancer and which tests are most appropriate with your health care team or a health care professional knowledgeable in cervical cancer screening.

So, for the screening of cervical cancer, it is recommended to know the right age to start screening for cervical cancers and you should also ask your doctor to include an HPV test if not mentioned. Make sure you know what happens when the screening test shows some abnormalities or a positive result. Ask the doctor if recommendations will change if you have HIV, had cervical dysplasia or precancer or if you are pregnant? Also, if you have a hysterectomy or had the HPV vaccine you should be aware of the recommendations.

What Is The Right Age to Get Screened For Cervical Cancer?

Between 21 to 29 yrs.

If you are sexually active you should begin getting Pap tests at the age of 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may advise you to wait three years before your next Pap test.

Between 30 to 65 yrs.

If you are sexually active, consult your doctor to determine which testing option is best for you. Go for a Pap test and if your result is normal, you may be recommended to wait three years before your next Pap test. HPV test also known as primary HPV testing is also advised. If your results are normal, you may be advised to wait five years before your next screening test.

In addition to the Pap test, an HPV test is performed. This is known as co-testing. If both of your results are normal, then you can skip your next screening test for five years.

If you are aged 65 or above

If you receive normal screening test results for several years, or you’ve had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition, such as fibroids, then you don’t need to have a screening further.

All women should discuss cervical cancer with their health care team and decide on an appropriate screening schedule. Screening is essential for sexually active women.

(With inputs by Dr Sangeeta Gomes, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Sarjapur, Bangalore)