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3 important tests to detect and treat Cervical cancer at an early stage

Timely screening is essential for every woman aiming to maintain good health throughout life, as early detection is crucial for the successful treatment of cervical cancer, which tends to progress slowly.

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Updated on: February 02, 2024 12:35 IST
Cervical cancer Awareness Month 2024
Image Source : FREEPIK Important tests to detect and treat Cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is preventable, curable, and treatable with appropriate treatment if caught early. January is devoted to bringing attention to this important disease. Finding any anomalies in the cervix and its cells requires screening for cervical cancer.

One type of cancer that affects the tissues of the cervix, or lower section of the uterus in women, is called cervical cancer. It may also spread to other parts of the body, including the rectum, bladder, vagina, and even the lungs. It is the fourth most prevalent malignancy in women to receive a diagnosis. Cervical cancer is mostly caused by human papillomaviruses, or HPVs. Sexual contact is the means of transmission of HPV, which is easily treatable when caught early.

If not addressed, Dr. Rajesh Bendre, National Technical Head & Chief Pathologist at Apollo Diagnostics, warns that it may evolve into cervical cancer with severe consequences. Fortunately, successful vaccination, ongoing screening, and advanced tests have contributed to an improved scenario and a decline in mortality rates. Therefore, women should undergo cervical cancer screening after a certain age, especially those over 35 who are at a higher risk. Regular screening enables early detection and treatment of cervical cancer.

Screening for cervical cancer

Early detection and proper treatment are essential for curing and preventing cervical cancer. Advanced screening can identify abnormalities in the cervix and its cells, reducing the risk of HPV and precancerous changes that may lead to cancer.

  • The Papanicolaou test (Pap smear) is a widely used diagnostic method for detecting cervical cell changes that could result in cancer. It is recommended for women aged 30 and above, with the option of combining it with HPV testing every five years. Depending on individual risk factors, more frequent testing may be necessary as advised by a doctor.
  • VIA screening involves visually inspecting the cervix with acetic acid and is used for detecting cervical lesions in women aged 26-30. This simple treatment and effective diagnosis of early symptoms of cervical cancer allows for immediate cryotherapy treatment for women who test positive. VIA helps confirm precancerous lesions in the cervix and is particularly beneficial for women in remote areas with limited resources.
  • HPV testing detects the presence of human papillomaviruses (HPV), which are responsible for a large number of cervical cancer cases. Early detection of HPV can reduce the risk of cervical cancer and guide further treatment options. Since it takes at least 10 years for HPV to develop into cancer, there is ample time for diagnosis and treatment. 

Regular cervical cancer screening is crucial for women's health, with the recommended starting age being 21, regardless of sexual activity. The frequency and type of screening depend on age and medical history. For those aged 21-29, a Pap test every 3 years is advised. Women aged 30-65 can opt for co-testing (Pap test plus HPV test) every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years with HPV testing every 5 years. It's important to consult with a doctor to determine the most suitable screening schedule. 

ALSO READ: Cervical Cancer Awareness Month 2024: Few myths and facts about the disease

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