This article is also available in Italian.
Cervical cancer is a cancer very common, especially in less developed countries, where there not are prevention programs.
In Italy the incidence of this tumor, has been halved since the 80s, with the introduction of the Pap test.
Even now, the Pap-test combined with regular gynecological check turns out to be the best means available to us for the prevention of this cancer, because cancer grows very slowly, and the test can identify abnormal cells first that the tumor is too advanced.
In practice, this is taking a small quantity of cells of the cervix, using a spatula or swab, is a test painless and quick.
Should be done by all women from the first sexual intercourse up to 60-65 years and repeated every 3 years. In the USA is used to do the test each year, but really not necessary.
Things go like this:
After a result of normal in two consecutive tests, a year apart from each other, we can test every three years. In women at risk controls are annual.
The Pap test should be done for sexually active women. If, for these women, the result of the first examination is negative, they repeat it after a year and, if this second test is negative, they repeat the examination every 1-3 years. Women aged over 60 years not repeat the exam if it was negative in two consecutive smears, because this cancer is very rare in post-menopausal advanced.
Women at risk are those who have contracted genital infection by human papillomavirus (Hpv), a sexually transmitted infection. It is transmitted through contact with infected area, not only through sexual intercourse. In the vast majority of cases, the infection disappear spontaneously, without symptoms, within a few months.
Only in the event that HPV persists for a long time is possible in a minority of cases, and over several years, the development of a cancer of the cervix.
As for the HPV vaccine, there are not many certainties yet. If really it reduces the incidence of cancer and how much time should be the duration of its coverage. Even if it was the right solution, the Pap test should always be done because the vaccine does not offer protection for all types of virus to the cervix.
To determine whether the vaccine actually works we have to wait at least 30 years.