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THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CERTAIN CANCER SCREENING

Since January is the month of cervical cancer (cervical cancer) awareness, in this article, I aimed to provide information about the cervical cancer and screening program.

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What is cervical cancer?

It is a type of cancer that occurs when the cell layer that forms the surface of the cervix turns into abnormal cells. "Human Papilloma Virus" (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus, is responsible for this abnormal transformation. There are about 140 subtypes of HPV, of which about 40 are high-risk HPV types associated with female genital cancers (most commonly cervical cancer). The most common HPV types associated with cervical cancer are 16 and 18. Other subtypes of HPV (types 6 and 11) are associated with genital warts, but types that cause genital warts do not cause cancer

What are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer may not show any symptoms in the early stages. In the later stages, vaginal bleeding, feeling of fullness or mass in the vagina, vaginal discharge and painful sexual intercourse are among the common symptoms. Bleeding occurs especially during or after sexual intercourse.

How is Cervical Cancer Screening Performed?

It is the 4th most common type of cancer in women, and it is a screenable and preventable cancer due to its long pre-cancerous period.

Before cervical cancer develops, it can be intervened before it reaches the stage of cervical cancer with the appropriate management of early cell changes in the cervix.

99% of women with cervical cancer have HPV positivity

Screening is done by Pap smear test and/or HPV genotype determination.

Screening should begin after the age of 21. Pap smear test is done every 3 years between the ages of 21-30. HPV testing is not done before age 30.

After the age of 30, screening can be done in two ways; Either a pap smear test is done every 3 years, or an HPV test is done every 5 years  or HPV and smear test are done together every 5 years. Taking HPV and smear test in the first place is called "co-test".

The PAP smear test is a screening test in which cells in the cervix are evaluated microscopically and can detect abnormal cellular changes. For the PAP smear test, the woman is taken to the examination table and the cervix is made visible with an instrument called "speculum" inserted into the vagina. Then, the brush is applied to the cervix and the cells in the cervix are painlessly removed and placed in a specially prepared liquid and sent to the pathology laboratory for examination.

PAP smear test; It is not done during menstruation, in the presence of vaginal infection and if sexual intercourse has occurred in the last 48 hours.

The HPV test, on the other hand, is painlessly taken from the cervix via a swab, similar to the PAP smear test, and sent to the relevant laboratory.

Additional examination (colposcopy) or more frequent follow-up may be required if an abnormal result is found in the PAP smear and/or HPV tests.

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