What happens in a cervical cancer screening

Going for a cervical screening test for most women can be scary.  Blame it on the ugly experiences associated with cancer or the different thoughts that come to mind when when the word “cancer” is mentioned, Images from the movies and media that have been successfully registered in our minds. Some of us even have very close relatives of friends who have at some point battles with this disease.

On the other hand a cervical cancer screening test has the capacity to save a woman’s life.  The test detects abnormal changes on the cells of a woman’s cervix capable of turning into cancer years down the line,  early.

Here are the different steps

1. Education and Counseling : A cervical screening test itself usually takes about 5 minutes.  It could extend to about 20mins with education and counselling prior to the test which helps in reassuring house of the procedure.  It also gives you an opportunity to learn more about the test and ask questions on areas you may be confused. This will also allow you  discuss any special concerns you may have.

Note: Never miss out on education and counseling before your screening. It is very important.

2. The test: After the education and counseling session, if you are willing to go ahead with the test,  your doctor or nurse will ask you to lie on your back on the examination couch with your legs raised and your knees bended just like you see in the picture below

Next,  the doctor or nurse inserts a speculum into your vagina to enable her have a clear view of your cervix. If you feel uncomfortable with the size of the speculum, you can always ask for a smaller one or ask that it be lubricated to ease entry.

a. Pap smear: A tiny brush is inserted through the speculum to brush the cervix in order to take some cells.  The brush is then rinsed in a fluid placed in a container after which the sample is taken to the lab for investigation.

b. VIAA: Visual inspection with Acetic Acid: A liquid is sprayed on your cervix. This liquid causes the abnormal cells on the cervix to be visible to the doctor or nurse.

The screening is mostly painless as many women return to their daily activities. It is an out patient procedure which means you do not need to be admitted in a hospital.

If abnormal cells are noticed,  a pinch of the tissue in that area are taken out, put in a fluid in a container and sent to the lab for investigation

3. The result: When abnormal cells are noticed and taken to the lab for investigation, the result usually comes back from 2 weeks.

If your cervix is nice and healthy,  you will be given a 2 year appointment for your next screening.

If the result is inadequate or the changes are almost insignificant, you will be asked to come back few months later for another test after your doctor will come to a decision.

When your results are ready,  you will be contacted to come pick it up.

The result shows the stage of infection and informs your doctor on the best treatment for you.

Watch this video to see the different stages a HPV infection will go through before turning into cervical cacer and how you can prevent it.

Majority of results comes back normal or early stages of the infection that can still be treated. It is on very rare occasions,  results come back as invasive cancer.

Now you know what happens in a cervical screening, I hope you go for yours very soon.

It is mostly painless and can happen very quickly.

You want to really know more about this disease and how you can stay free from it? Sign up for 5 days to being free from Cervical Cancer (FREE Email Course) below:


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Stephanie Nyong
About Stephanie Nyong 66 Articles
Stephanie O. Nyong is a seasoned health educator and content strategist at Health Platforms International where she empowers individuals especially women and girls with knowledge and skills to prevent and manage a number of health conditions. She is the founder of BE-ME Africa, a Breast Examination and Menstrual Education project for young girls. Stephanie also organises pop-up clinics regularly to provide affordable quality healthcare services to a target population. She is admired in the industry and has the capacity to deliver on the current demand for health literacy for improved health outcomes in Nigeria. You can connect with her across all social media handles @stephanie_nyong


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