Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix in females. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vaginal opening. Cervical cancer is considered to be the easiest type of female cancer to prevent and treat, as long as the woman has regular health screenings. There are two types of tests, called the pap smear, or pap test, and the HPV screening, which are commonly used to test for cervical cancer. Each of these tests for cervical cancer is highly successful in detecting changes in the cells of the cervix, either before the cells become cancerous or in the earliest stages of cancer, when the condition is easily treatable.
One of the tests for cervical cancer is known as the pap test, also referred to as a pap smear. This test is typically performed twice a year during routine office visits to the gynecologist. A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of the female reproductive system. The pap test can often detect subtle changes in the cells of the cervix before these cells become cancerous. Pap tests for cervical cancer are the most commonly performed procedures used for detecting cervical changes.
Pap tests for cervical cancer are generally performed at a doctor's office. The doctor will insert a device known as a speculum into the vagina in order to expand the vaginal walls so the cervix can be easily seen. A disposable swab or cervical brush will then be used to gently remove a few of the cells from the cervix. These cells will then be placed onto a slide along with a special type of chemical that works to preserve the cells. This slide is then sent to a laboratory so the cells from the cervix can be tested for any abnormalities.
A sexually transmitted virus called the human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common cause of cervical cancer in women. For this reason, tests for cervical cancer often include HPV testing. While many patients will not exhibit any symptoms of HPV, some who are infected with this virus will develop genital warts. HPV tests for cervical cancer are performed in the same manner as pap tests. Often, the two tests for cervical cancer are performed at the same time, and the laboratory will also test the cervical cells for the presence of the human papillomavirus.