WOMEN’S HEALTH WEDNESDAY
The cervical cancer prevention process in three steps:
1 The Pap test/Pap smear. This is a screening for pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix. A speculum tool is used to allow a swab to collect a sample of cells for examination under a microscope. Common misconception: Pap is short for the doctor’s name who invented it (Paponikolaou), not human papilomavirus - which coincidentally can cause cancerous cell growth in the cervix. A Pap smear is performed annually in sexually active females and usually ever 5 years in post-menopausal women with no history of abnormal findings.
2 If suspicious cells are collected in the Pap, the next step is a coloscopy (not to be confused with a colonoscopy). In this procedure, a tool called a coloscope is used to illuminate and magnify the cervix and vaginal tissue (“scopy” = to look). It is usually paired with biopsy - cells are removed from cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions for further evaluation. A coloscope is also used to examine and collect evidence from rape victims.
3 If it is determined that cervical dysplagia is evident, a LEEP procedure is performed (loop electrosurgical excision procedure). It is performed within an office and requires local or general anesthesia. The tool used simultaneously cuts and cauterizes the tissue as lesions are removed.