Of all the cancers affecting women, cervical cancer ranks fourth in the list of most prevalent. Though cervical screening or Pap test is a recent invention, one out of four women do not participate in it. During this cervical cancer awareness week, we are calling on every woman that is up to the age of getting the cervical screen to turn up and save their lives with the smear test. This test is the most effective way of detecting cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer begins as abnormal behaviour of cells in the cervix
Every year, the UK records about 2,300 new cases of cervical cancer. These cancers usually begin when some cells in the cervix (the opening of the womb) begin to act abnormally. This misbehaviour may then result in any of the following types of cervical cancers:
- Squamous cell cervical cancer which affects the outer layer of the cervix
- Adenocarcinoma of the cervix that affects the glandular cells of the cervix
Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about 98.9% of the cervical cancer cases in the UK
HPV is the cause of the highest cases of cervical cancer. This virus is transmitted through sexual activities and is present in the skin and moist tissues (called mucosa) which are usually found in the throat, genitals, anus or cervix.
There are about a hundred types of this virus,but only 13 of them can cause cancer.
These viruses are present in many people, but up to 80% of its carriers are unaware. They do not have symptoms and usually clear up on their own if the carrier has a robust immune system. If they stay long enough without clearing up, they may develop into cancer.
Those who miss out on their cervical screening have a higher chance of developing cervical cancer
A smear test can detect these misbehaving cells before they turn into cancer. There is a 1.7% risk of cancer attached to women inthe UK who miss out on their cervical screening.
So, if you are aged 25 – 49, you can book an appointment to screen once in three years on the NHS. Those that are between ages 50 to 64 can get theirsonce in five years.
However, if you have limited time or you started experiencing some symptoms, book an appointment with a specialist in a private clinic.
How a smear works
When you visit the gynaecologist, you will have to lay on your back with your ankles together while spreading your knees.
The gynaecologist will then insert a new speculum to open your cervix for the sample to be collected. He will then insert a small brush, spin it around and then bring it out. This brush will be dipped into a liquid that will preserve the collected cells.
This sample in the liquid will then be sent to a testing facility to be examined
Interpreting the result
If your result is negative, then it means you do not have HPV, but you will have to screen again after three years.
If your result is positive, it means you have HPV. However, not all positive results have abnormalities. If you do not have defects, you will have to repeat your test after a year.
If abnormalities were present, you would have to undergo a Colposcopy. This will highlight your cervix for better examination. If the result of the Colposcopy turns out abnormal, it means that there are changes in the cells of your cervix.
Meet your gynaecologist when you experience the following symptoms
- Bleeding duringor after sex or in-between period
- Painful intercourse
- Pain in the lower back
- Postmenopausal bleeding
- Unusual discharge from the vagina.
You can make an appointment with Gynaecology Clinic in London for a private smear test by calling 020 7183 0435 today.