Sexually active women between the ages of 30 and 65 should be screened for cervical cancer every three years. Screening tests are recommended for sexually active women under 30 years of age. The tests include Pap smears and HPV DNA tests.
This test identifies abnormalities in cervical cells. It is used to detect precancerous conditions in the cervix, such as abnormalities that may lead to cancer. Cells are collected from the cervix and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Anaesthesia or drugs are not required for the procedure. Completing it only takes a few minutes. The test has its limitation. It is only 50-70% sensitive and may have false negatives for various reasons. It is also more challenging to detect adenocarcinoma type of cervical cancer. Hence, it is now advisable to add HPV DNA testing.
This test determines the type of virus. All sexually active women between the ages of 30 and 65 should be screened for HPV. Women can collect their samples or have their healthcare providers do so. The sampled specimen will be analysed in the laboratory for reporting. Due to its sensitivity, it is not advisable to be tested on younger women. A negative HPV DNA screening test is more reassuring than a negative Pap smear test and allows longer spacing for screening.
If any of these two screenings tested positive, your gynaecologist would advise you on the next action step, usually with colposcopy and biopsy.