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Cervical cancer screening is a test that looks for cell changes in the cervix that might lead to cervical cancer. In Singapore, cervical cancer is the 10th most common cancer in women.
If detected early, cervical cancer can be effectively treated.
If symptoms appear before a diagnosis, it might mean that the cancer has started spreading and this can make treating it more difficult.
Cervical cancer screening has:
Detecting cervical cancer can be tricky because precancerous changes rarely cause symptoms. The best way to detect if you may have cervical cancer is to undergo a cervical cancer screening.
Common signs to look out for include:
Vaginal bleeding between periods
Menstrual periods that are heavier or last longer than usual
Pain during intercourse and bleeding after intercourse
A noticeable change in your vaginal discharge (more or has a strong, unusual colour or smell)
Cervical cancer screening is typically done during a pelvic exam.
During the exam, you will lie on your back on an exam table with your knees bent and feet put into supports at the end of the table.
The doctor or healthcare provider will use a speculum to gently open the vagina in order to get a clear view of the cervix.
A sample of cells is then collected from the cervix using a soft, narrow brush or small spatula.
The whole exam and collection of sample cells only take a few minutes.
After the cervical cell sample is collected, cervical cancer screening can be done in three main ways:
A human papillomavirus (HPV) test will check the cells for any infections with high-risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer.
A Pap smear, pap test or cervical cytology test collects the cells in the cervix to be tested and checked for any changes that could be caused by HPV. If this is left untreated, there is a high chance it could turn into cervical cancer. Apart from finding cervical cancer cells, a pap smear test can also find precancerous cells. A pap smear test can also find other conditions such as infection or inflammation.
A combination of HPV and pap smear tests is done together to check for both cervical cell changes and high-risk HPV.
It can take anywhere between 2 to 3 weeks to receive cervical cancer screening test results.
If test results remain normal, your healthcare provider will advise you on when you should get tested again. In most cases, if your results are normal, the chances of getting cervical cancer is deemed low.
However, if test results reveal any abnormalities, the doctor will advise you on the next course of action. Abnormal test results do not necessarily mean cancerous cells are present.
Should the test result reveal precancerous or cancer cells, you will be advised to get further testing done or get treatment. Getting treatment as early as possible will prevent cervical cancer from developing or further developing.