The cervix is opening to the uterus and is located at the top of the vagina. The role of human papilloma virus (HPV) has been well established in etiogenesis (the medical term for causation of disease) of cervical cancer. Among different factors, smoking, nulliparity (the condition in a woman of never having given birth), multiple sex partners and poor hygiene are the most commonly associated risk factors. The good news is that most of these risk factors are well within any woman’s control through a slight modification in the lifestyle.
It usually takes a long time (between 3 to 4 years) for cervical changes to get transformed into cancer. During this transitory period, there are many yet subtle morphological changes that can be detected by your doctor. “PAP smear” test is a very effective way of detecting these changes in a systematic and timely manner. PAP testing helps identify the possible presence of undiagnosed cervical cancer in women without any signs or symptoms. ‘American Cancer Society’ recommends starting of cervical cancer screening at the age as early as 21. It is very routinely done test by the female population in the developed countries.
This is a very quick and simple test. You need not get admitted but will need to visit a doctor at a clinic/hospital. In fact, you can resume your work the same day. No precautions are required to be taken before or after the test.
The test broadly involves three parts: 1) sample collection through a non-invasive procedure 2) sample processing 3) microscopic examination.
Step-1: During the procedure, the doctor will make you lie down comfortably on an examination table. The cervix is visualized with the help of a speculum. Cells are collected from the cervix using a small brush (called spatula). The procedure is completely painless and most of the patients do not even realise that the procedure is over.
Step-2: In this step, the cells are essentially highlighted on a slide with the help of special stains. There are two types of methods: conventional and liquid-based cytology. In addition, HPV testing is also done, which detects the presence of pathological forms of HPV virus in your cervical sample.
Step-3: Abnormal changes are studied under the microscope. This is the most crucial step that makes a world of difference in the final diagnosis. The expertise of the cytopathologist comes into the picture for detecting the subtle changes at the cellular level.
While the first step can be done by any doctor (generally a pathologist or gynaecologist) who is qualified to perform the test, step 2 and step 3 are done only by the pathologists. The actual procedure takes about a couple of minutes on an average while reporting takes 1-2 days.
Abnormal results need either a follow-up or additional testing. Low-grade morphological changes in the cervix can be followed up and may reverse back to normal. Women with high-grade changes may require treatment. The additional testing may include colposcopy (for accurately visualizing an abnormal portion of cervix) and cervical biopsy where abnormal tissue sample is collected and processed at a histopathology lab.
Ideally, the pap test should be done by a perfectly healthy woman every three years starting at the age when her sexual life becomes active. Women with a weakened immune system or other gynaecological complications may require more frequent testing as they may be more prone to developing cervical cancer.
Children typically inherit about 5% of the cancers that are familial from their parents. Some of these are Ovarian cancer, Breast cancer and Colon cancer. The chances of inheriting are high only if multiple family members are affected by these type of cancers.
The primary factors to see if a patient is fit for cancer treatment are cancer stage and spread, patient's weight and overall health, kidney functions, etc. Age is generally a secondary criterion.
There is no evidence suggesting that sugar makes any cancer worse or that avoiding it will help to heal cancer faster.
There are no statistics to support this claim yet other than some proponents on social media.
Not All. Only certain chemotherapy drugs cause temporary hair loss.
Many patients lose precious time in finding a miraculous cancer cure (such as herbs/monks). However, if these therapies were genuinely effective, then science and governments would have started widely publicising these kinds of treatments, which is not the reality.
Cancer is not a contagious disease that can spread from one person to another.
Surgeons and histopathologists are trained to conduct surgeries and biopsies and utilize their skills to prevent the spread of cancer cells in the body.
According to the best studies completed so far, cell phones do not cause cancer.
There is no harm in playing or sleeping with children when going through cancer treatment due to its non-infectious nature. In fact, activities like these bring joy to the patient and relieve the side effects of the therapy.
Disclaimer: Views expressed and information given herein are meant purely for general information and awareness purpose. For professional advice, please consult the doctor in person with your specific history and other relevant details. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.parikshanlab.com.