Take a Few Minutes to Protect Yourself Against Cervical Cancer
Over the past 50 years, the mortality rate of cervical cancer has dropped 70 percent — thanks to a simple test that takes only minutes.
If you are 18 years or older or have had sexual intercourse, physicians recommend regular Pap smears to detect pre-cancerous cells early, often before any symptoms such as bleeding, pelvic pain or discharge have been experienced. This screening test is not painful, and is conducted during a pelvic exam. The cells are collected from the cervix with a swab and sent to a laboratory to be evaluated.
There are two different types of Pap smears: the conventional Pap smear and the ThinPrep Pap test. In both tests, the cervical cell sample is collected in the same manner. The difference is in how the cervical cell sample is prepared by the health care provider and tested by the lab.
The conventional Pap smear is the most widely used cancer screening test in the United States. The cervical cells are manually smeared onto a microscope slide and then sent to the lab.
With the ThinPrep method, the health care provider rinses the collection device in a vial of preservative solution, capturing virtually all of the cell sample. The sample is then filtered at the lab to reduce blood, mucus and other particles which could obscure the reading.
The results from your Pap smear will be sent directly to your health care provider, who will contact you if any abnormal cells are found in the sample. These cells, called “atypical,” can indicate many things and often are not reason for concern. Less than 10 percent of atypical cells are found to be cancerous.
Atypical results can also be produced if you have finished menstruating less than one to two weeks prior to your Pap smear, if you have a vaginal infection or have had sexual intercourse or inserted anything into the vagina such as tampons, douches or diaphragms less than 48 hours before the test. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead in order to obtain an accurate reading.
If the results are normal, indicating the cervical cells are healthy, you will not need another Pap smear for at least a year unless previous tests showed atypical cells. If atypical cells are found, your physician may recommend another Pap smear in three to six months to determine if the cells are still abnormal and, if so, what treatment is needed.
Right now, Pap smears are the strongest tool we have in the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. All women should continue this simple procedure throughout their lives, even if they have had a hysterectomy but retained their cervix. Through regular Pap smears and following the advice of your physician, you can protect yourself from most cancers of the cervix.
SOURCES: UC Berkley Wellness Letter; National Cancer Institute
Healthy Living Article List
|For Women||For Seniors||Fighting Cancer||Your Heart||Emergency 101|
|Work Smart||Bones, Muscles and Joints||Nutrition News||Advice From Our Docs|