Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Cervix and cervical smears

Questions and Answers

Are cervical smear tests real
necessary? I don’t like the idea of
them at all.

The incidence of cervix cancer in
American women has fallen by 70
percent as a result of widespread
use of the Pap smear test. Many
thousands of lives have been
saved by the test. In spite of this,
over 13,000 American women get
cervical cancer annually, and over
4,000 of them die from it each
year. These women are mainly
those who did not have Pap smear
tests, perhaps simply because they
didn’t like the idea.

Isn’t a Pap smear painful and
embarrassing?

The doctor or the nurse is not
embarrassed—it is just routine—
so there is no reason for you to
be. You will not be able to see
what is happening, so just relax,
avoid squeezing, and the whole
procedure should be painless.

What if my Pap smear test result
indicates problems?

If you get what is called an
abnormal result, don’t panic. It may
simply mean that the specimen
was questionable and that the
pathologist couldn’t safely grade it
as normal. It may have been taken
too near the time of your period,
it may have been badly preserved,
or there may just be inflammatory
changes, not cancer. Just make
sure that you have a repeat test.

And if the result is truly abnormal?

Mildly abnormal cells call for a
repeat test every three months or
so. If there is a severe abnormality,
you will have to have a biopsy of
the cervix, a minor procedure in
which a cone of cervix is removed
for full microscopic examination.
This procedure has saved many
women from grave problems.

The cervix is the neck of the uterus, which remains closed until a woman gives
birth. Cervical smears detect the presence of abnormal cells that can lead to
cancer—if cancer is discovered early enough, treatment can provide a cure
.

The cervix is the narrowed lower part, or neck, of the uterus. Although the uterus enlarges greatly during pregnancy, the cervix remains closed until the baby’s head descends during childbirth and forces it open (see Uterus). The cervix is the site of various disorders, the most important of which is cancer.

Like the rest of the uterus, the cervix is largely muscular and is lined with a mucous membrane. It is almost cylindrical, about i inch (2.5 cm) long, and loosely connected to the bladder in front. The lower part of the cervix, which is somewhat conical and rounded, projects into the vagina so that there is a shallow cul-de-sac (or fornix) all around. This part of the cervix is covered with the same mucous membrane that lines the vagina and is readily accessible for examination. In the center of the vaginal part of the cervix is the tiny, circular external os (mouth), the mouth of the cervical canal that runs down the cervix from the cavity of the uterus.


Infections of the cervix

Cervical infections are fairly common and can cause inflammation (cervicitis). They are often sexually acquired and may be caused by herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis (see Sexually Transmitted Diseases). All but the herpes virus respond well to treatment with antibiotics. Persistent (chronic) cervical infections can cause pelvic pain and backache, and there may be pain on intercourse. Infections with the human papillomavirus and herpes virus are believed to be important causal factors in cervical cancer. Because sexually promiscuous females have a higher chance of acquiring these viruses, they are more likely to develop cervical cancer. Some herpes strains, especially types 16 and 18, are classified as high-risk for cancer (see Herpes).

-337-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Bronchitis 294
  • Brucellosis 297
  • Bruises 298
  • Bunions 299
  • Burn Center 301
  • Burns 303
  • Burping 306
  • Bursitis 307
  • Calcium 310
  • Cancer 312
  • Capillaries 318
  • Cardiac Massage 320
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 322
  • Cartilage 324
  • Cataracts 326
  • Celiac Disease 329
  • Cells and Chromosomes 330
  • Cellular Telephones 333
  • Cerebral Palsy 335
  • Cervix and Cervical Smears 337
  • Cesarean Birth 340
  • Chat Room 343
  • Chelation Therapy 345
  • Chest 347
  • Chicken Pox 349
  • Child Abuse 351
  • Child Development 354
  • Chinese Medicine 358
  • Chiropractic 362
  • Cholera 365
  • Cholesterol 366
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling 367
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 369
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 370
  • Circulatory System 372
  • Circumcision 374
  • Cirrhosis 375
  • Cleft Palate 376
  • Cloning 377
  • Clubfoot 379
  • Cocaine and Crack 380
  • Cold Sores 382
  • Colon and Colitis 383
  • Colonic Irrigation 384
  • Colonoscopy 386
  • Color Blindness 388
  • Color Therapy 390
  • Colostomy 392
  • Coma 394
  • Common Cold 396
  • Complexes and Compulsions 397
  • Conception 399
  • Congenital Disorders 401
  • Conjunctivitis 403
  • Constipation 404
  • Contact Lenses 406
  • Contraception 407
  • Convalescence 412
  • Convulsions 413
  • Coordination 414
  • Cornea 416
  • Corns 417
  • Coronary Arteries and Thrombosis 419
  • Cosmetics 422
  • Cosmetic Surgery 424
  • Coughing 426
  • Cough Syrup 427
  • Counseling 428
  • Index 431
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