A Cervical Smear Test (also known as a Cervical Screening Test) is a way to examine cells collected from the cervix for the presence of infection, inflammation, abnormal cells, or cancer. This test is an extremely important for women as it may detect abnormalities that could potentially lead to invasive cancer.
The good news is, most invasive cancers of the cervix can be detected early if women have Cervical Smears and pelvic examinations regularly. Additionally, the Cervical Smear is useful for detecting other cervical and vaginal abnormalities including CIN/Dysplasia (Precancerous Cells) and inflammation.
CIN or Dysplasia refers to a minor abnormality in the skin of the cervix which can be very easily treated by removing the abnormal skin to prevent any significant consequences.
An abnormal smear test does not mean you have cancer, however it does suggest the possibility of an area of skin on the cervix where the cells are growing a bit faster than normal. It should be noted that if such an area of rapidly growing cells is present — left over a number of years untreated, it may become a cancer.
Most abnormal smears show only very low grade abnormalities which will resolve spontaneously without treatment. A very small number will require a simple treatment to remove the abnormality. Cervical smear tests are a remarkably accurate way to test for abnormalities in the skin of the cervix which can be easily treated to prevent cancer ever starting.
Even a smear test that shows severe changes can be treated easily by removing the small area of skin that is abnormal.
Dyskaryosis refers to mild changes in the appearance of the cells that normally cover the surface of the cervix. These changes are often found on the smear test and usually revert back to normal within a few weeks or months.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the name of a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body. It is very common, and most of the time the immune system will recognise the virus and develop an immune response that will stop it from continuing to grow. However, this may take a number of months or years.
Occasionally, infection persists and can lead to abnormalities which could progress. These abnormalities can be simply treated to prevent the possibility of more serious disease.
For further information on the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), please read this informative article written by Mr Angus McIndoe.
When abnormal cells are found during a Cervical Smear test, a Colposcopy may be ordered for further investigation.
Through the colposcope, we can see certain changes in cervical and vaginal tissues such as abnormal blood vessels, tissue structure, colour, or patterns. It is important to monitor the appearance of these abnormalities, as they may be the first evidence of a developing cancer.
Here at The McIndoe Centre, we are happy to explain diagnosis and treatment options with you.