Screening for cervical cancer usually involves a number of tests for cervical cellular anomalies that may indicate the potential for cancerous development. These include:
- Pap test: A Pap smear, or Pap test, is a procedure to collect cells from the surface of the cervix and vagina. These cells are then examined under a microscope to look for cellular changes.
- Colposcopy: This procedure looks inside the vagina or cervix for abnormal areas. A thin, lighted tube called a colposcope is inserted through the vagina into the cervix; tissue samples may be taken and later tested via biopsy.
- Biopsy: If your Pap test locates abnormal cervical cells, your doctor may perform a biopsy to look for signs of cancer. In some cases, you may need to go to a hospital for a cervical cone biopsy, meaning the removal of a larger, cone-shaped section of cervical tissue.
- Pelvic exam: Your doctor or nurse will examine your vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and rectum by inserting one or two lubricated, gloved fingers into the vagina while the other hand is placed over the lower abdomen to feel the size, shape and position of the uterus and ovaries. The pelvic exam also includes a Pap test, and the doctor or nurse will insert a speculum to examine the vagina and cervix for signs of abnormalities or disease.
- Endocervical curettage: A currete (a spoon-shaped instrument) is used to collect cells or tissue from the cervical canal; this tissue may be subjected to biopsy.
- Cytoscopy: This test is conducted to see if cancer has spread to the bladder. The doctor examines the inside of the bladder with a thin, lighted tube. Small tissues samples may be taken for biopsy.
- Protoscopy: In this procedure, a lighted tube us used to see if cancer has spread to the rectum. A protoscopy is performed along with a pelvic exam to see if cancer has spread beyond the cervix.
- Chest x-ray: If you’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer, you doctor may conduct a chest x-ray to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs. Other imaging tests to see if and how far cancer has spread include a lynphangiogram, CT scan and MRI scan.
- HPV DNA test: This lab test can be used to determine if you are infected with one of the 13 types of human papilloma virus that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer. As with the Pap test, the HPV DNA test involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix for lab testing.