Gynae Oncology : Understanding Abnormal Cervical Screening Test Results
- Screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions in women is a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer.
- Cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage and treated promptly.
Your current screening test results along with your past test results, determine your risk of developing cervical cancer. Your doctor will use them to figure out your next test or treatment. It could be a follow-up screening test in a year, a colposcopy, or one of the other procedures discussed below to treat any pre-cancers that might be found. A colposcopy is a simple procedure used to look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina. It's often done if cervical screening finds abnormal cells in your cervix.
Because there are many different follow-up or treatment options depending on your specific risk of developing cervical cancer, it is best to talk to your healthcare provider about your screening results in more detail, to fully understand your risk of cervical cancer and what follow-up plan is best for you.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many elective procedures being put on hold, and this has led to a substantial decline in cancer screening. Health care facilities are providing cancer screening during the pandemic with many safety precautions in place.
First, the doctor will ask you about your personal and family medical history. This includes information related to risk factors and symptoms of cervical cancer. A complete physical exam will help evaluate your general state of health. You will have a pelvic exam and maybe a Pap test if one has not already been done. In addition, your lymph nodes will be felt to see if the cancer has spread (metastasis).
Your doctor may recommend colposcopy if:
- You have had two abnormal Pap tests in a row that show atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US) cell changes.
- You have ASC-US cell changes and certain risk factors, such as a high-risk type of HPV infection or a weakened immune system.
- You're not comfortable waiting and want to know right away if you may need treatment.
- And a complete sense of trust and privacy.
Several types of biopsies can be used to diagnose cervical pre-cancers and cancers. If the biopsy can completely remove all of the abnormal tissue, it might be the only treatment needed.
- Colposcopic biopsy
- Endocervical curettage
- Cone biopsy
If a biopsy shows that cancer is present, your doctor may order certain tests to see if and how far the cancer has spread. Many of the tests described below are not necessary for every patient. Decisions about using these tests are based on the results of the physical exam and biopsy.
- Cystoscopy, proctoscopy, and examination under anesthesia
- Imaging studies
- Chest x-ray
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
- Intravenous urography