Cervical cancer screening

Early detection of cervical cancer can be done with a test called a Pap smear test, in which cells are gently scraped from the cervix with a blunt instrument, smeared onto a glass slide and looked at under a microscope. A special stain is applied to the cells (called the Pap stain after the doctor who invented it), which shows up the cancer cells if they are present.

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Pap smear of cells from the cervix magnified by a microscope to reveal cancer cells (stained pink) among the normal cervical cells (stained blue). (Photo in the public domain: National Cancer Institute, USA)

Women who are sexually active should ideally have a Pap smear test once every two or three years, but this is generally only available in higher-level health facilities. Cervical cancer screening detects the cancer early. If effective treatment, such as surgical removal of the uterus, chemotherapy or radiation follows, it dramatically stops the progression of cervical cancer and can cure the disease completely. Advise your female clients to go to a specialised well-woman clinic if possible and have the screening test for cervical cancer.

Last modified: Tuesday, 15 July 2014, 7:13 PM