By: Amanda Blount
Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in women. Approximately 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 274,000 deaths are attributable to cervical cancer yearly. Through an increase in cervical cancer screening with cervical cytology, there has been a decrease in the incidence of cervical cancer.
The support of cervical cancer screening for the last 60 years has been the Papanicolaou test (also known as Pap test or Pap smear). Georgious Papanikolaou developed the Pap smear in the 1940s. This process consist of exfoliating cells from the transformation zone of the cervix to allow analysis of the cells closely for detection of cancerous or precancerous lesions.
The development of cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix. Cervical cancers and cervical pre-cancers are classified by how they look under a microscope. The main types of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinomas often begin in the transformation zone and form from cells in the exocervix. Cervical Adenocarcinomas develop from mucus-producing gland cells of the endocervix. An abnormal pap smear test result can be the first step in finding cervical cancer. Further testing can lead to diagnosing cervical cancer.
Once abnormal cells are identified on the pap smear, diagnostic testing in the form of colposcopy is often directed which can possibly be followed by a diagnosis of dysplasia by means of colposcopic biopsies. Remember a pap smear is not a diagnosis and your positive result does not prove that you have cancer or even dysplasia. However, it usually means you should have further evaluation, such as a colposcopy or a biopsy.
With proper screening, cervical cancer is preventable and avoidable. Deaths from cervical cancer in the United States continue to drop by approximately 2% a year. This decline is mainly due to the widespread use of the pap test to identify cervical abnormalities and allow for early treatment. Precancerous cervical cell changes and early cancers of the cervix usually do not cause symptoms. For this purpose, consistent screening through Pap testing can help find precancerous cell changes early and avoid the progression of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HPV vaccines: Key point for policy-makers and health professionals. World Health Organization.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist. Cervical cancer screening and prevention. Practice Bulletin No. 157. Obstet Gynecol. January 2016. 127: e 1-20.
Association, A. P. (2012, April 24). Pap smear – American pregnancy association. Women’s Health http://americanpregnancy.org/womens-health/pap-smear/
Association, A. P. (2012, April 24). Pap smear – American pregnancy association. Retrieved from Women’s Health http://americanpregnancy.org/womens-health/pap-smear/
What Is Cervical Cancer