A woman’s cervix is located in the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. Depending on your age, your clinician may recommend you have a Pap Smear, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test, or both tests together. The Pap Smear and HPV test both require a swab of the cervix and are not painful. While the Pap Smear is looking for cellular (cytology) changes, the HPV test is looking for various high-risk genotypes of HPV that are associated with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent by having regular screening tests and follow-up. It is also highly curable when found and treated early.
Signs & Symptoms:
Cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms early on, but advanced cervical cancer may cause some of the followig symptoms.
- Bleeding from the vagina that is not considered normal for you
- Discharge from the vagina that is not considered normal for you.
If you experience vaginal bleeding or discharge that is out of the ordinary, like bleeding after intercourse, please call our office to schedule an appointment to be seen. Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge may also be caused by something other than cancer, which is why it is important to determine the cause.
When to get tested:
Pap Smears are one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. The joint guidelines from the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) recommend distinct surveillance strategies and options based on a woman’s age, screening history, other risk factors, and the choice of screening tests. Typically, it is recommended that women between the ages of 30 and 65 receive a Pap Smear and HPV testing. This is called co-testing and allows clinicians to identify the presence of HPV alongside the health of the cervical cells from the Pap Smear. For women between the ages of 21 to 30, having a Pap Smear, reflexing to test for HPV only if the cervical cells are abnormal, is recommended. Reflexing to HPV typing when the cervical cells are abnormal helps clinicians determine why the cells are atypical, including distinguishing various high-risk HPV genotypes that may be present and could play a role in the cellular changes.
How Can I Prevent Cervical Cancer:
Regular testing may prevent cervical cancer and identify pre-cancerous cells that can be treated before becoming cancerous. There are also ways to decrease your risk of getting cervical cancer.
- Seeing your clinician regularly for your Pap Smear and/or HPV test
- Following your clinician’s recommendations if your cervical cancer screening test results are not normal.
- Receiving the HPV vaccine that protects against nine types of HPV that are most often related to cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
- Limiting the number of sexual partners.
Treatment for Cervical Cancer:
If your Pap Smear and HPV test are abnormal, we may recommend further testing such as a cervical biopsy, also called Colposcopy, or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). In some cases, we may recommend you consult with a gynecologic oncologist for further evaluation and consider surgical intervention.