Cervical cancers are caused by oncogenic, high-risk types of HPV which are sexually transmitted. Most HPV infections go away on their own within 1-2 years without any sequels. Cervical infection with high-risk HPV if persists can cause cellular changes which can develop into precancerous lesions and can eventually progress to cancer. It usually takes 10-20 years for a persistent infection with high-risk HPV to develop to cancer.
Screening for cervical cancer
It is done to detect precancerous and early cervical cancer lesions as these are completely curable. Two types of screening are available cytology-based called as PAP smear and HPV testing. PAP can detect abnormal cells, infections and inflammation. HPV testing detects the presence of high-risk HPV types in cervical cells.
How is the test done for Cervical Cancer
It is done in a clinic during a pelvic examination. A speculum is inserted into the vagina so that cervix is visible. Cells are taken with a wooden or plastic brush and sent to the laboratory after fixing. Conventional one is on a glass slide and liquid is collected in a vial of liquid. In a liquid, both cytology and HPV DNA can be done.
Guidelines for testing for Cervical Cancer
Interpretation of the results of Cervical Cancer Tests–
The report is negative for intraepithelial lesions or malignancy
Abnormal PAP like LSIL needs colposcopy and biopsy and repeat screening after 1 year. If the biopsy reveals CIN-2 or more, treatment should be done.
Treatment of Cervical Cancer
Screening for women with CIN-2 or above should continue for 20 years even if they are above 65. Women vaccinated against HPV also need to be screened for cancer cervix.