Cancer may be a deadly disease but taking a few steps in preventing it may call for a better prognosis and perhaps, better recovery. The key to cancer prevention is early detection. The earlier you notice a change in your body, the more likely it is to get your doctor’s advice on steps to prevent it.
Cancer of the cervix (cervical cancer) is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the cervix. The cervix is the narrowed bottom portion of a woman’s uterus. Shaped like a cone, it connects the uterus to the vagina and is the “gateway” of the birth canal.
Cancer of the cervix, like most cancers, can be prevented if early detection is initiated right away. The moment a certain change occurs on your body, you may want to grab the phone and have your appointment with your doctor set as soon as possible.
Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
Medical practitioners are provided with Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines to perform diagnostic tests for cervical cancer when:
- The patient has symptoms of cervical cancer such as abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Cervical cancer is suspected from patient’s history and medical record
- Cervical cancer is suspected in pelvic exam or physical examination of the patient
- Abnormal changes in the cervix are found in routine Pap smear test
Many of the same tests used to initially diagnose cancer are also used to determine the stage (how far the cancer has progressed).
If you are wondering that whether you need cervical cancer screening after hysterectomy or not, ask from your GP. Usualy, in case of “Total Hysterectomy”, a women no longer need a cervical screening test. While, in case of “Subtotal Hysterectomy”, patient still requires regular cervical screening.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued a list of frequently asked question about it. You can check them out in ACOG Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines. You can also check out Cervical Cancer Screening Recommendations and Clinical Summary by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Cervical cancer screening is not in itself a form of test to confirm the diagnosis of cancer rather, it is an approach to preventing it by early detection and recognition.
New Cervical Cancer Screening Tests, Methods
There are multiple ways for Cervix cancer to be detected. These are listed below in the order of cervical cancer screening cost from low to high:
- Cervical Cancer Screening Urine tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening Pap Smear tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening Blood tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening Colposcopy tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening Xray tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening MRI tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening PET tests
- Cervical Cancer Screening Biopsy tests
Cervical Cancer Screening Urine tests
Cervical Cancer Screening Urine tests mainly includes urinalysis, which is a routine urine test that describes the color, appearance and contents of a urine sample. It is done to find abnormalities such as blood in the urine. Blood in the urine means that there is bleeding somewhere in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra), which may indicate that cancer has spread to the urinary system.
Cervical Cancer Screening Pap Smear tests
The Pap test is a routine screening test used to find abnormal cell changes of the cervix and to screen for cervical cancer. Regular Pap test screening is the most important tool in finding and treating cervical cell changes before they progress to cervical cancer.
The most common example of screening is the Papanicolau Smear also known as a Pap Smear Test. This involves the insertion of a speculum through the vagina for visual inspection. Then, a small spatula will be swept around the cervix to scrape off cervical cells. The smear will then be placed on a slide then viewed through a microscope. The cells will be further examined for abnormalities or cell changes.
Cervical Cancer Screening Blood tests
Cervical cancer screening blood chemistry tests can be used to detect abnormalities by checking how well certain organs are functioning. The most common type of blood test used for the purpose is Complete Blood Count (CBC). Cervical cancer screening blood tests are also used to stage cervical cancer since increased levels may indicate that the cancer has spread to the kidneys, liver and other organs, by measuring:
- Urea (blood urea nitrogen, or BUN) and creatinine measure kidney function.
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase measure liver function.
Cervical Cancer Screening Xray tests
Cervical Cancer Screening Xray tests includes an intravenous pyelogram (IVP), which is a special x-ray of the urinary system. It may be used to see if cancer is blocking (obstructing) the ureters. IVP may not be needed if a CT scan using contrast medium or an MRI has been done.
Cervical Cancer Screening CT scan tests use special x-ray equipment to make 3D and cross-sectional images of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels inside the body. A computer turns the images into detailed pictures. It is used to find out the extent of the cervical tumor. These CT scan test are done to see if there is cancer in the nearby organs, lymph nodes and tissues in the pelvis.
Cervical Cancer Screening MRI, PET tests
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) are just some of the most common diagnostic tests performed to detect and confirm the diagnosis of cancer.
They have similarities in terms of imaging aspects but they differ in terms of image quality and depth of visualization. Both render three-dimensional images but PET scans are more thorough and accurate. The other screening methods of cancer vary and differ according to the body part involved.
Cervical Cancer Screening Colposcopy tests
Another test done for cervical cancer screening is colposcopy, which is the visualization of the cervix for any physical abnormalities which include color, size and shape. The test is done by the insertion of a speculum through the vagina and a small camera with magnifying lenses. The images are then sent over to the monitor where the doctor can see abnormalities.
Cervical Cancer Screening Biopsy tests
Cervical Cancer Screening Biopsy tests includes cervical cancer screening methods like cone biopsy, also known as conisation, where a cone-shaped piece of cervical tissue is removed and viewed under a microscope. There are cervical cancer screening methods that are commonly utilized for cone biopsy. One is the loop electrosurgical procedure (LEEP), where a tissue is removed using a thin looped-wire, which is heated by electric current. The wire is then used as a scalpel.
Another cervical cancer screening method is cone biopsy also called cold knife cone biopsy. The procedure involves the use of a laser in place of a heated wire. Like the LEEP, this involves the use of local anesthetics and is usually done in the hospital. Mild to moderate bleeding may be experienced for a few weeks.
With all Cervical Cancer Screening invasive procedure, the administration of a local anesthesia is essential. Although the whole procedure would only take about 10 minutes and in your doctor’s office, the aftereffects are nothing serious but can include pain and mild bleeding.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 12,000 women develop cervical cancer each year in the United States and about 4,200 die from the disease. With early detection, cervical cancer is usually easily treatable. If it is left unchecked, Cervical Cancer is almost always fatal. It can turn into Metastatic Cervical Cancer, spreading to the rest of the body parts e.g uterus, pelvic, rectum, bladder, abdominal, kidney and lungs..