The idea of getting tested for cervical cancer might seem daunting. However, understanding what the screening entails, how often it should be done, and what you can expect from the process can help alleviate your worry.
The Process of Cervical Cancer Screenings
Screening for cervical cancer can be done in a doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, and even a community health center. It is typically part of a pelvic exam. Cervical cancer can be invasive, but knowing what is coming by getting tested regularly can help prevent it from developing.
During the screening or Pap smear, a woman lies on the exam table, and a healthcare professional uses an instrument called a speculum to open her vagina so the cervix can be seen. During the procedure, the physician will take a sample of the woman’s cervical cells with a wooden or plastic scraper. This sample is then placed into a vial of liquid preservative to be sent to a laboratory for testing.
At some point during the exam, the doctor or nurse may use a brush to collect cells from the cervix, as well. This sample is tested for HPV, but not all tests require this separate procedure. Often, the laboratory can use the same sample taken during the Pap test to identify HPV cells.
After the samples are sent to the lab, they are tested for different types of HPV. They are also examined under a microscope to detect abnormal cells.
The Importance of Regular Testing
Every woman should talk to her doctor about how often she needs testing. Women that are at higher risk for cervical cancer should be tested more regularly. For example, women who are infected with HIV, are immunosuppressed, have been exposed to diethylstilbestrol before birth, or are being treated for a precancerous cervical lesion or cervical cancer may need undergo frequent screenings.
When HPV and Pap tests are performed together, it is called co-testing. One benefit of co-testing is that it promotes the early detection of abnormalities.
Call Your Doctor to Learn More about the Cervical Cancer Screening Process
If you have not yet received cervical cancer screening, it is important you call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Regular testing could be essential to your future health and can help prevent cervical cancer from developing. Contact your doctor today to book your appointment.