Depending on the degree of abnormality, and sometimes an HPV DNA result, the doctor or nurse will recommend a colposcopy examination.
Treatment will only be required if there are abnormal cell changes on the cervix. These changes are called ‘Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia’ (CIN) or cervical dysplasia. CIN is categorised as low grade CIN1, and high grade CIN2 to 3. The majority of cases of CIN1 usually return to normal without any treatment. Women with CIN2 to 3 are treated because of a risk of progressing to cancer if not treated. High grade changes are not cancers, and they take many years to turn into cancer.
HPV DNA tests are used in certain clinical situations, usually in conjunction with cervical screening. The test can be helpful in deciding what follow-up is required. More information on HPV testing is available on www.timetoscreen.nz.
A colposcope is like a pair of medical binoculars on a stand and it magnifies the cells on the cervix. Colposcopy shows where the abnormal cells are. A tiny piece of tissue may be removed (a biopsy) which may cause brief discomfort. The biopsy is sent to a laboratory to confirm if an abnormality is present. These procedures are simple and require only a short visit to a hospital clinic or private specialist.
In some situations the specialist may request HPV Type testing to assist in further management.
Treatment is only required if there are certain abnormal cell changes of the cervix.
Most cervical cancers can be prevented by HPV vaccination and having regular cervical screening.
Vaccination, regular screening, and following National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) recommended guidelines if any abnormalities are identified, is the most effective pathway for women to follow to prevent invasive cervical cancer developing.
Regular cervical screening is important to detect cell changes that could, if untreated, lead to cervical cancer. There is no evidence that HPV will affect the ability to have children, or affect pregnancy.
Smoking decreases the immune system’s ability to deal with the HPV virus and therefore may increase your risk of developing abnormal cell changes. So, most importantly, try to give up smoking.
More information on cervical screening is available on www.timetoscreen.nz.