Cancer screening tests are a series of tests that help identify various types of cancer before the symptoms start to show. This helps diagnose cancer at a very early stage when it is more likely to be completely treatable .The different cancers for which screening is routinely done are breast, cervix, endometrial cancer and colorectal cancer. The tests that are done, at what age the screening process starts, how often and for how long the screening continues depends on the patient’s personal, medical and family history.
BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS :
One of the most common tests employed for breast cancer diagnosis is mammogram. Routine yearly mammograms are recommended after the age of 45 till 54 years of age. Women older than 54 years can get them done every two years. Women should be familiar with the size and shape of their breast and nipples and the texture of the breast tissue, so that they can be aware of any changes and seek medical help at the earliest.
Though these are the general recommendations, it may vary based on the woman’s history. Woman who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer or women who have a history of radiation treatment will need more extensive and more frequent cancer screening tests.
CERVICAL CANCER DIAGNOSIS :
In the early stages, cervical cancer is asymptomatic and at this stage it can be diagnosed by means of a test called Pap smear, which involves scraping the cells of the cervix and analyzing them for cancerous changes. Screening for cervical cancer usually starts at the age of 21.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CERVICAL CANCER SCREENINGS :
MYTHS ABOUT CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING
Some women believe, that they are immune to cervical cancer once they have children or once they get the HPV vaccine. This is not true, and they still need to continue with the screening.
Yearly Pap smear is not recommended, unless the doctor specifically asks for it based on a previously abnormal result.
Also these general guidelines may not apply to women who are HIV +ve or have had cervical cancer.
RISK FACTORS FOR CERVICAL CANCER :
PREPARATION FOR THE PROCEDURE
Pap smear is done as an OPD procedure and is painless and does not include any anesthetic. The best time to get a pap smear is few days after the menstrual period Patients would need to avoid the following at least 48 hours before the procedure. This is to increase the accuracy of the test.
It is a very short procedure. The patient will be asked to lie down with the knees bent and the heels resting in stirrups.
The doctor will insert the speculum into the patient’s vagina to hold the walls of the vagina apart. This will allow the doctor to get a better view of the cervix. The doctor will now take samples of the cervical cells by using a spatula, a scraping device. The patient usually doesn’t feel pain.
The doctor will now transfer the samples to be taken to a laboratory where they are examined to look for cell characteristics that indicate cancer or a pre-cancerous condition.