The American Cancer Society unanimously recommends that every woman over the age of 21 undergoes routine cervical cancer screening, but information on the screening process can often be tough to find. Listed below are the four most common questions regarding cervical cancer screening.
1. Which Tests Are Involved in Screening for Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer screening is typically composed of two different tests. The Pap test, which is recommended for all women under the age of 65, is designed to detect any abnormalities among cervical cells. The HPV test, on the other hand, tests for the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus has a strong association with cervical cancer, and its presence can often be detected through abnormalities that are present on the Pap test.
2. Does an Abnormal Test Result Always Indicate Cancer?
Fortunately, an abnormal test result may not indicate the presence of cervical cancer. Cervical cells will often show temporary abnormalities, but these abnormalities have been known to reverse themselves with time. Even though abnormal test results will often imply that further testing should be performed to determine if cancerous cells are present, it’s certainly not the case that an abnormal test result means that cancer is there. This, among other reasons, is why regular testing is recommended.
3. How Long Should I Go Between Screenings?
Your current age will determine how long you should go between cervical cancer screenings. If you are between 21 and 29 years old, then the current guidelines dictate that you can go up to three years between screenings. If you are between 30 years old and 65 years old, however, things get a little more complicated. You will need to speak with your doctor to determine a personalized screening routine, but you can expect to go up to three years between each Pap test and up to five years between each HPV test.
4. What Are the Known Causes of Cervical Cancer?
Experts believe that cervical cancer is caused by genetic mutations to the cells of the cervix. It’s worth noting, however, that these cells go through several stages before they become fully cancerous. Cells first become pre-cancerous, meaning that they start aggregating together to produce potentially harmful growths. If these growths are noticed in the pre-cancerous stage, then there is an increased chance of preventing the transition from pre-cancerous growth to cervical cancer. Thus, cervical cancer screening is designed to diagnose potentially malignant growth before it can cause full-blown cancer.
Regular cervical cancer screenings can be an integral part of a well-rounded and proactive approach to keeping your reproductive health in check.