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Your options for cervical cancer screening

<p><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/cervical%20cancer%20body.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/> </p><p>It is advisable for all women between the age of 25 -65 years to have regular cervical cancer screening, before you start experiencing initial symptoms, when the abnormal cells are still treatable. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers if caught early. A simple test called the Pap smear can save your life from cervical cancer. A Pap smear test can detect abnormal cells of the cervix before they become cancerous. These abnormal cells are usually very treatable without affecting your ability to have children.
</p><p><strong> When and how often should I have a pap smear test?</strong></p><p>A pap smear test should be done every 3 years for all women between 25 - 65 years of age. HIV positive women should have a pap smear test after every 6 months or one year from age 18 or at the time of diagnosis then annually thereafter.
</p><p><strong>How is a Pap smear done?</strong></p><p>You will be asked to remove your undergarment and lie on your back.  You will then be given a sheet to cover the lower half of your body. The nurse or doctor will place a speculum in the vagina to enable them visualize the cervix. This should not hurt if you allow your body to relax. A small brush is then used to obtain some scrapings from the cervix (much like rubbing the inside of your cheek with a toothbrush). The cells are put on a slide and taken to the lab where a pathologist looks at them. </p><p><strong>Where can I get a Pap smear test?</strong></p><p>Pap smear tests are offered at Aga Khan University Hospital&#39;s Outpatient Gynaecology Clinic. You may also have a Pap smear test during a routine doctor visit at the Family Medicine Clinic or with your gynaecologist.
</p><p><strong>How will I receive my results?</strong></p><p>You will be advised at the time of your pap smear test how you will receive your results.
</p><p><strong>What do the results mean?</strong></p><p>A normal pap smear means your cervix is normal and healthy.  A pap smear may also show signs of infection or inflammation.  However, it does not check for sexually transmitted infections, there are other tests for that.  Abnormal cells are a sign of precancerous changes which require treatment.</p><p><strong>What if I have abnormal cells?</strong></p><p>You may be advised on either additional tests such as an HPV test to detect the human papillomavirus, or a colposcopy. This test will give more information about the degree of changes of the cells. If the colposcopy shows abnormal cells or precancerous cells (dysplasia), these will have to be treated.</p><p>There are several ways of treating the abnormal cells. The procedure for treating the abnormal cells can be done as an outpatient procedure or a day surgery case and you may go home the same day. You will be able to have children even after these procedures.</p><p><strong>Do I need to get Pap smears if I have had a hysterectomy?</strong></p><p>Check with your doctor to determine if you still need a Pap smear tests.
</p><p><strong>What about human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine?</strong></p><p>The HPV vaccine is offered at Aga Khan University Hospital&#39;s Vaccination Centre.  The vaccine is designed to prevent infection in women who have not been exposed to this virus.  They are best suited for girls and women between the ages of 9 - 26 years.  </p><p>The vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancers, and therefore you will still need regular pap smears even though you have been vaccinated.</p><p><em>By Dr Jonathan Wawire, Consultant Anatomic and Histopathologist at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi</em>
</p><p><em><strong>This article was first published in Business Daily on June 10, 2024</strong></em></p>

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