Regular Screening Detects Cancer at Its Most Treatable Stages
Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women. Most cases are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). A vaccine is available that will decrease a woman’s risk of getting this type of cancer. The vaccine provides protection from the two most common types of human papilloma virus.
The human papilloma virus is spread through sexual activity. The safe-sex practice of condom use will decrease a woman’s risk of acquiring cancer of the cervix and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Women who smoke are more likely to get this type of cancer. A stop-smoking program can reduce this increased risk.
Regular pap smear tests can detect precancerous changes in the cervical cells. When women don’t get pap smears, or neglect to follow up on abnormal results, cervical cancer can proliferate unnoticed. Women are advised to get pap smear tests every two years to screen for cancer of the cervix. Sexual intercourse should be avoided for twenty-four hours before this test, because it can cause falsely abnormal results.
Another test doctors use to check the cervix for abnormal changes is a colposcopy. The German physician Hans Hinselmann developed the procedure in 1925, with help from Dr. Helmut Wirths. During a colposcopy, the doctor uses a colposcope to detect malignant and premalignant lesions. The colposcope provides a magnified and illuminated view of the cervix and vaginal tissues. The doctor can then identify possible cancerous changes in the cells.
During a colposcopy, solutions of acetic acid and/or iodine are used to aid in the detection of abnormal cells. If cancerous tissue changes are suspected, the doctor can then do a biopsy to examine the cells under a microscope.
If cancerous changes are detected, they can be treated with loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), which uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue; cryotherapy, which freezes abnormal cells; or laser therapy, which uses light to burn off abnormal cells.
Hysterectomies rarely need to be done for contained cervical cancer. However, if the cancer has spread and is not responding well to treatment, a hysterectomy may be necessary.
The 5-year survival rate for cancer that is contained inside the cervix is 92%. Cancer of the cervix can often be detected through regular screening. Pap smears performed every two years and colposcopies when advised by a physician can help detect cancer of the cervix early enough to treat it effectively.