Cervical cancer screening
In Serbia every day at least one woman dies and four women are likely to develop cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer occurs in the lower part of the uterus. The disease begins when cells of the cervix change and begin to multiply uncontrollably.
The situation in Serbia
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital HPV is usually transmitted through sexual contact. HPV infection is very common, but most of the women who are infected with HPV recover within 6 to 24 months. However, some women's immune system can not provide protection against HPV and the risk of cervical cancer is then increased.
What is the early detection of cervical cancer?
It takes a few years for the transformation of cervical changes caused by a viral infection into cervical cancer. Regular gynecological examinations are very important for early detection of cervical changes which can be easily removed before development of the cancer. Therefore, the Republic of Serbia started organized screening program for early detection of cervical cancer, which is free to all women aged 25 to 64 years.
How is the Pap test performed?
During the brief and painless gynecological examination the gynecologist takes swab from a surface of the cervix. Taken swab is send to a laboratory, where it is analyzed under a microscope in order to find abnormal cells. This test is called the Papanicolaou test (Pap test). Pap test shouldn’t be performed during the period of menstrual bleeding. Two days before the examination woman shouldn’t have sex or use any vaginal tablets. Pap test is performed once a year first two years. After that if the previous two results were normal, Pap test should be performed once in three years.
What happens after women receive their results?
All women who participated in screening will receive their results in their primary health care centers. Most women who have regular gynecological examinations usually have a normal Pap test result. In this case, the risk of developing cervical cancer is small.
Some women have an abnormal Pap test. This doesn’t mean that they have cancer. It means that transformed cells are found in their cervical smear and they require additional examinations. Some of the changes, which require additional examinations, should be removed in order to prevent their transformation into cancer. A simple treatment, which doesn’t need hospitalization, is usually sufficient. Such treatments rarely affect woman’s sexual life or her ability to have children.
For more information, contact your local health center.