Cervical Cancer: Diagnosis
1. Pap test
Pap test is sometimes also referred to as cervical cytology or pap smear. Here, the cells are extracted from the cervix to perform the test. It can be done in a clinic or a hospital. The clinician takes the sample from the cervix of the patient by using a speculum, further, the cells are examined in a conventional way. The sample is placed under a glass microscope on a slide to detect the probability of cancerous cells mushrooming in the cervix. Minimum age for women to undergo this process for cervical cancer detection is 21 years. Also, you must get this test done only a few years after you have lost your virginity, else the women would have no benefit from this screening process if they’ve not had any sexual contact ever.
Another method of diagnosis of cervical cancer is known as colposcopy. Individuals facing abnormal changes in cervix can be easily examined through colposcopy after initial atypical results have been observed through pap smear test. Colposcopy is a painless examination of cervical area for the detection of any cancerous growths and takes about 15-20 min for the complete procedure. Colposcope is performed by using acetic acid at the cervix and a colposcope, which is placed at a distance of about 30 cm from the vagina. At examination, if your gynecologist views any abnormal area, then tissues are extracted and sent to laboratory for further testing.
Biopsy is a screening test which is effective in diagnosis of any type of cancerous cells. In order to get a confirmation on cervical cancer, one is required to go through a biopsy of cervix. The procedure involves the use of dilute acetic acid in order to highlight abnormal cells that are present on the surface of cervix. A more intense form of cervical biopsy is referred to as “cone biopsy”, as a cone shaped lock of tissues is removed from the affected area and used for further testing. This can be done using a scalpel, loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or by a carbon dioxide laser. Cone biopsy is an outpatient procedure and may result in normal vaginal bleeding up to 1 week after the surgery.
4. Precancerous lesions
The term precancerous lesions is also interchangeably used for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. This examination is done by the pathologists in the laboratory in order to detect pre malignant dysplastic changes. Also, the histological classification of this particular diagnosis has changed over the years. The spectrum of abnormality is now detected through a test named as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
5. HPV DNA test
Another important method of getting the analysis of the disease is through the HPV DNA test. It is like the follow up tool, when abnormalities have been detected in the Pap Test. The main purpose of the test is to make sure whether the person has ever been infected with any high risk or low risk type of HPV. This particular DNA is very likely to cause cervical cancer. As per reports from American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this test is not recommended for screening women below the age of 30. This too is an outpatient procedure of examination.
6. Visual examination
Visual examination of the bladder and rectum is an important diagnostic test, generally used for the patient to detect cervical and other cancers. With the help of this procedure, the internal portion of the bladder can be viewed distinctly using a simple speculum. It has been put forth by several studies that 50-70% of cases of cervical cancer can be detected by visual examination alone. The procedure involves inspection with the help of acetic acid and Leugol Iodine in the affected area. The patient need not be admitted to the hospital overnight, and can get the test done in clinics or hospital as an outpatient. It is an effective screening process for cervical cancer in a low resource setup when performed by practiced paramedics and doctors.
7. Imaging test
Imaging test is done at a much advanced stage of cancer. In order to detect different types of cancerous cells, an individual must undergo the test. This test will combine and take into consideration the results of computerized tomography (CT) scan, X-rays and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). These tests are very important to determine if the cancerous cells have spread in a broader way. It is also important to detect if it has spread beyond the cervix. You need not necessarily get admitted in the hospital to get any of the imaging tests done. Imaging test is a painless procedure and does not consume much time either.
8. The Pap smear
This is the usual first step in diagnosing cervical cancer. Those women, who do not get regular Pap smears done, can be said to have the persistent symptoms prompting them to seek some medical attention followed by some tests. The symptoms of cervical cancer do not appear frequently until the disease has progressed. It is supposed that the Pap smear is an essential test for a woman’s health.
This is an examination to find out the possibility of a cancer before a patient has any symptom of the same. This is done to find out the cancer at the earliest, so that this may be treated effectively without letting it get worse later. Studies are on to determine the possible threats of cancer to be determined at the time of screening itself.