Cervical cancer is a reality that many women have to fight against. At Doctors in Italy, we believe that the best protection against cervical cancer is early detection.
We have a very inexpensive and effective tool for early diagnosis and prevention, aka pap test. If you are a woman, you have probably done that as part of your last gynecological consultation. If you haven’t done so, consider getting a pap test as soon as possible!
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cervix cells. The main risk factor for cervical cancer is the Human Papillomavirus (also known as HPV).
How is HPV transmitted?
HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact or sexual intercourse. If you have an active sexual life, chances are that you have already contracted HPV. The good news is that there are different types of HPV, and only a few of these (e.g. type 16 and 18) cause cancer. Most infections are cleared on their own within months.
Cervical cancer preventive steps by age:
Less than 21 years old
HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls in the age range 9-21, if the individual has not already been infected. Three vaccines are available to prevent two high-risk types of HPV that cause 70 % of cervical cancer incidents. Vaccines are administered as 3 injections over a 6 months period. The vaccines are mostly indicated for girls who are 11-12 years old.
Cervical cancer screening is not recommended for females younger than 21 years old because false-positive results are common.
Usually, women are advised to start testing for cervical cancer at the age of 21. Cervical cancer can be found early or even prevented with regular screening. Pap smear (in Doctors’ language known as Papanicolaou smear) is the test used to screen for this type of disease as it can detect cancer and pre-cancerous cells at an early stage.
How does a Pap test work?
How frequently should a woman get a pap test?
The new guidelines indicate that women should get tested every 3 years. If results reveal the presence of abnormal cervix cells, more frequent screenings may be required.
Women of age 30+ are advised to get a high-risk test for human papillomavirus, in conjunction with the pap test. The test consists in a simple sample collection.
Women who are 65+ should check with their doctor whether getting screened is still needed. Generally, if past pap tests’ results are normal, screening is no longer necessary.
What if results are positive?
If the pap test/HPV test shows that abnormal cells are present, the gynecologist will perform a colposcopy. This procedure allows the doctor to visually examine the cervix and helps detect the location of abnormal cells by staining them with vinegar. Once abnormal cells have been detected, a biopsy helps determine whether treatment is needed.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable. There are no good reasons why you should not do all that is in your power to protect yourself and stay healthy!
Ever wondered why it is called Pap Test? The term pap comes from the name of its inventor, a greek doctor called Georgios Papanikolaou!