The methods for the diagnosis of cervical cancer include:
Screening: It is important for women, especially those with a high risk of cervical cancer, to undergo routine screening tests. Screening tests help to detect the precancerous cells that can potentially convert into cancerous cells. Screening tests are usually recommended when women attain the age of 21 years. The screening tests include:
The Human papillomavirus (HPV) test: Certain types of HPV increase the risk of cervical cancer. The gynecologist obtains the cervical swab and performs DNA testing to determine the presence of HPV. The Pap (Papanicolaou) Test: During this test, the cells of the cervix are scraped and collected. The sample is then examined in the laboratory to determine the presence of cancer cells or other abnormal cells (non-cancerous) with the potential to develop into cancerous cells.
Medical history and physical examination: The individual should never ignore any symptoms and consult with the oncologist. The woman is asked about the symptoms, medical history, and family history. It will help to determine the overall health status of the woman. The women may also have a Pap test if not already done. The lymph nodes are also examined for any swelling.
Colposcopy: If the symptoms of the woman strongly suggest cervical cancer or if either or both the Pap and HPV results suspect a high probability of cervical cancer, the woman is advised for colposcopy. The procedure involves an examination of the cervix with a colposcope. The colposcope comprises magnifying glass that assists clear examination of the cervix. The doctor places the speculum in the vagina to keep it open during the examination. The procedure may also be performed during pregnancy.
Cervical biopsies: Biopsy involves obtaining the samples from the cervix and sending them to the laboratory to detect the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells. There are several types of biopsy methods. These include:
Colposcopic biopsy: If any abnormal tissue is detected during the colposcopic examination, a small tissue section is removed with the biopsy forceps. The women may experience brief pain, mild cramping, and slight bleeding after the procedure.Endocervical curettage: If no abnormal tissue is viewed during the colposcopic examination, the woman is recommended to undergo endocervical curettage. During the procedure, the surgeon inserts a narrow instrument into the section of the cervical canal near the uterus. The brush or curette is used to scrape the canal to obtain the tissue sample. These samples are sent to the laboratory for further examination. It is a safe procedure; however, the woman may experience slight pain and light bleeding.Cone biopsy: Also known as conization, during the procedure, the sample is obtained from the cervical canal as a cone. The apex of the cone is from the endocervical part, while the base of the cone is from the exocervical section. The sample obtained with conization also contains the transformation zone (the zone where there is the maximum likelihood of starting pre-cancer or cancer). The cone biopsy may also be used as a treatment for cervical cancer. The types of cone biopsy include:
Loop electrosurgical procedure: In this procedure, a thin wire loop is heated through electricity and works as a knife for removing the tissue sample. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia.
Cold knife cone biopsy: This procedure involves using a laser or surgical scalpel to obtain the tissue sample. This procedure is done under either general or spinal anesthesia.
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