378 Cancer and Growths
➤ If you are a
health worker, try to
get training in testing
for cervical cancer.
community to offer
cancer screening and
Regular testing for
cancer of the cervix
can save many lives.
Finding and treating cancer of the cervix
Because cancer of the cervix does not have early warning signs,
but can be cured if it is found early, it is good to be tested for it
regularly. Screening tests are designed to look for abnormal tissue
on the cervix called pre-cancer. Sometimes cancer is also found.
The Pap test
For this test, a health worker scrapes some cells from the cervix
(this is not painful) during a pelvic exam and sends them to a
laboratory to be examined with a microscope. When you have this
test, you must return for the results, usually after several weeks.
Another method of screening women for cancer
of the cervix uses vinegar (acetic acid) which is
painted on the cervix, and turns abnormal tissue
white. The benefit of this test is that the woman
receives her result right away and can often receive
treatment the same day.
This is a test that takes cells from the cervix or
vagina with a cotton swab. It looks for the kinds of
HPV that cause cancer. It tells you only that you have
the HPV virus. It does not tell you if you have abnormal cells and
need treatment. If you have a positive HPV test, you will still need
a Pap test or visual inspection.
These other tests are sometimes used to find cancer
when a screening test is positive.
• Biopsy. Tissue is taken from the cervix and sent to
a laboratory to be examined for cancer cells.
• Colposcopy. Some hospitals use this tool to
magnify the cervix so it is easier to see signs of cancer.
How often women should be tested
To find cancer of the cervix early enough to treat it simply and successfully, women
should be tested at least every 5 years, starting at about age 30.
More frequent tests are important:
• when you have a Pap test that shows some abnormal cells. These cells often do
not become cancer, and they return to normal in 2 to 3 years. But since those
cells could be early signs of cancer, you should have another Pap test in 1 to
2 years to make sure cancer is not growing.
• 1 year after you are treated for pre-cancer to make sure the pre-cancer is gone.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012