Each and every day, 30 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer (about 11,000 women per year) and 11 women die from it in USA. Cervical cancer symptoms include vaginal bleeding and discharge, pelvic pain and pain when having sex, weight loss, nausea and vomiting. Luckily, cervical cancer can be easily prevented with a couple of regular screening tests.
The first test, Pap test also called the Pap smear is performed in a clinic or the doctor’s office to check out precancers, or any abnormal cervical cells changes that may become cervical cancer in case left untreated or inappropriately treated. For the process, a metal or plastic tool, the speculum will be used by the doctor to widen the vagina to enable him or her to look at the vagina as well as the cervix. The doctor will then gather a small amount of cells along with mucus out of the cervix and nearby area. The cells will be then taken to a lab in a bottle of liquid (to preserve them) where they will be examined to detect if they are normal or not. All women are recommended to get the Pap test. During the Pap smear, the doctor may also do a pelvic exam to check your uterus, ovaries along with some nearby organs to verify that everything is fine. Also, sometimes, the doctor may be performing only a pelvic exam without a Pap smear so to know exactly the tests you are having, do not hesitate to ask your doctor.
The second test, the HPV test function is to check for a particular virus, the Human Papillomavirus that may trigger cervical cells changes. In case you are the both tests above (HPV test plus Pap test), the same cells gathered during the Pap test will be examined for HPV at the lab. Confer with your doctor to know if the HPV test is suitable for you.
For women with low income or do not have health insurance, they may benefit of a low-cost or even free Pap test sponsored by the NBCCEDP, National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. To find out if you qualify, call your local program or 1-800-CDC-INFO. It is critical that you get tested for cervical cancer and visit a cervical cancer specialist. A cervical cancer screening can help you save your life!