Cervix is part of a woman’s reproductive system. It is in the bottom part of the uterus (where a baby grows during pregnancy). It joins the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer begins in cells on the surface of the cervix.


Almost all cervical cancer is caused by a virus called HPV which spreads through sexual contact. Most women’s bodies are able to fight HPV infection, but sometimes the virus leads to cancer. Women who smoke, have had many children, use birth control pills for a long time, or have HIV infection are at higher risk of cervical cancer.


With regular test, screening and follow- up with the gynaecologist, it is very easy to prevent cervical cancer. Two main screening tests which can help prevent cervical cancer (a common cancer in women) or find it early are Pap test and HPV test –

PAP TEST (or Pap smear)

Pap test screens is only for cervical cancer. It tells if cervix has an infection, abnormal (unhealthy) cell that can change into cancer cells or cancer.

Women at what age should go for this test?

It is important for all women (over 18) to have Pap tests as a part of their routine health care test. How often one should have Pap test in a year depends on age. In case one has HIV, diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant or have a weekend immune system, irrespective of age every year Pap test is advised.

How to prepare for test?

Two days before Pap test one should make sure

  • Not to rinse the vagina with water or another fluid
  • Should not use a cream / jelly / medicine in vagina
  • Avoid intercourse and use of tampon

Also it should be noted that, Pap test cannot be done during periods.

What is the procedure?

It is a quick test that takes only a few minutes. With an instrument called speculum and a swap, your gynaecologist will take few cells from inside and around the cervix on a glass slide which will sent to lab for testing.

It can take as long as three weeks to receive Pap test results. A woman’s risk of cervical cancer can be reduced by getting regular Pap test.

HPV TEST (human papilloma virus)

HPV testing is used to look for the presence of high-risk HPV types in cervical cells. It detects the presence of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. Certain types of HPV including types 16 and 18 increase cervical cancer risk. The virus often clears from the body on its own. If it persists, it can lead to cervical cancer.

Women at what age should go for this test?

It is recommended to those who have an abnormal PAP results and to women who are over 30’s. Cervical cancer is most common in women who are older than 30, because HPV infections are more likely to be persistent at this stage. That’s why it’s now recommended that women age 30 and over get a regular HPV test along with their Pap.

What is the procedure?

In the HPV test, a doctor takes a swab of cells from the cervix, just as for the Pap test. The cells are then analysed in a laboratory.

If one requests the HPV test along with the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test will be tested for HPV at the laboratory.

Apart from this screening test one can also get vaccinated for HPV. Vaccines can protect against several types of HPV, including some that can cause cancer.


Girls and young women can reduce their risk of cervical cancer by getting an HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active. There are two HPV vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil. Vaccines are given as a series of three shots over 6 months to protect against HPV infection.

Vaccines reduces a person’s risk of getting an infection thus women who get an HPV vaccine also need regular cervical cancer screening tests.


It is recommended to seek medical attention if a woman experience pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding (e.g. after menopause, after sex, between regular periods), vaginal discharge, change in menstrual cycle, pain during sex as these could be signs of cervical cancer which show up at later stage of cancer.


Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it’s found early. Depending on the size of the tumour, the stage of cancer and women’s wish to conceive in future, treatment plan is made. Treatment options may include, surgery, radiation therapy, Chemotherapy. In some cases, a combination of these methods will be used for better treatment outcomes.