Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and medical and family history. A pelvic exam will be done. A pelvic exam is a thorough, manual evaluation of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. A Pap test will also be done. This test removes a sample of cervical tissue for examination under a microscope. This may be done whether or not you are having symptoms.
If the Pap test shows abnormal cervix cells, other tests will need to be done before cancer can be diagnosed. These may include:
A colposcope is specialized tool the doctor can use to closely examine the cervix. A speculum is used to hold the cervix open so the doctor can view the area with the colposcope. A vinegar or iodine solution is swabbed onto the cervix and vagina. This solution makes abnormal tissue turn white so areas that need to be evaluated can be identified. Suspicious tissue from the highlighted area will be taken for biopsy.
During a biopsy, suspicious tissue is removed so it can be examined under a microscope. This is the only way to confirm a diagnosis. Different biopsy methods include:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Cervix
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If cervical cancer is confirmed, results from completed tests and new tests will help determine the stage of cancer. Staging is used to identify characteristics of the tumor that will help determine the prognosis and treatment plan. Factors that play a role in staging include how far the original tumor has spread, whether lymph nodes are involved, if cancer has spread to other tissue, and microscopic cellular details.
Tests that may help determine cervical cancer stage:
The cancer or the body's response to cancer can trigger certain changes in the blood. Blood tests may identify some of these markers in the blood. If HPV is present, blood tests can also be used to assess the specific type of human papillomavirus (HPV) that is involved.
Imaging tests may be used to look for the presence, size and location of tumors. Some tests use contrast material to highlight structures so images are more clear and detailed. Imaging tests may include:
Pretreatment surgical staging is an procedure to determine if or how far cancer has spread beyond the cervix.
Cervical cancer is staged from 0-IV.
Cervical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003094-pdf.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2015.
Cervical cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114831/Cervical-cancer. Updated April 11, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Cervical cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/gynecologic-tumors/cervical-cancer. Updated May 2013. Accessed November 16, 2015.
Stages of cervical cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/patient/cervical-treatment-pdq#section/_142. Updated June 12, 2015. Accessed November 16, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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