Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer between women. The cervix is the narrowest lower part of the uterus that connects it to the vagina. Cervical cancer occurs on average at the age of 50, but its incidence in younger women is increasing.
This disease is one of the main causes of mortality because of cancer, among women. Today, cervical cancer can be prevented – and if diagnosed early – it can also be cured. The primary measure of prevention against cervical cancer is the Pap test. The Papanicolaou test is recommended to be performed once a year, since the beginning of the woman’s sexual life.
The causes responsible for cervical cancer are not fully specified and appear to vary. One of the major factors that is thought to be related to the appearance of this cancer is Human Papilloma Virus infection (HPV).
The HPV virus displays various subtypes, not all equally associated with the risk of developing cancer lesions in the cervix. In total, over 150 different types of HPV are detected, of which about 35 can infect the woman’s inferior genital system.
The high-risk types are HPV-16 and HPV-18, which are considered oncogenic.
Other types that are also commonly associated with the development of cervical cancer are HPV-31, HPV-33, HPV-35, HPV-45, HPV-52, HPV-58, and others.
Molecular examination for HPV-DNA detection can be complementary to the Pap test, but it does not replace it. The sample that is examined for detection of the genetic material of the virus is a different cervical smear collected by the gynecologist during a Pap test. The molecular diagnostic laboratory checks whether the genetic material of the virus is present in the sample or not.
Testing for the HPV strains, in addition to the Pap test is recommended by the American Cancer Society for women over 30 years of age. The molecular examination for the virus is also recommended to women with suspicious findings of a Pap test, in order to determine whether further testing or treatment is required.
In case of diagnosis of infection by one of the high-risk types, usually the gynecologist proceeds with colposcopy and further monitoring. If a high- risk subtype infection is left untreated for a long time, it can be associated with the occurrence of precancerous lesions, which may lead to the onset of cancer. The other low-risk subtypes, which are sexually transmitted, are related to the occurrence of warts.
Cervical cancer, however, can be prevented and if diagnosed in time, it can be cured. Therefore, keeping an annual appointment with our gynecologist for the standard Pap test, can become a real gift of life to ourselves.