Despite cervical cancer's potential preventability, it ranks as the third most prevalent cancer among Malaysian women. As estimated by the HPV Information Centre, 1740 Malaysian women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2020, with a tragic loss of 991 lives to the disease.

HPV and Its Impact: What Every Woman Should Know

  1. Prevalence: Most sexually active women will encounter the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) at some stage in their life. In over 90% of these instances, the infection vanishes within 1-2 years without any consequential symptoms.
  2. Prevention: Utilising a condom during intercourse can reduce the risk of HPV, but it's not a foolproof method.
  3. Exposure Risk: Engaging in intercourse with even one partner does not exempt you from HPV exposure. Thus, it underscores the importance of consistent HPV screenings.

Decoding the Main Cause of Cervical Cancer: HPV

  • HPV Dominance: HPV, especially the "high-risk" types, primarily triggers cervical cancer. Notably, HPV types 16 and 18 were discovered in the vast majority of these cancer incidents.
  • Medical Insights: Studies have found that the HPV-16 type exists in about 50-55% of cervical cancer cases, and HPV-18 in roughly 15-20%. Notably, HPV-18 is frequently associated with glandular cell cancer (adenocarcinoma).
  • Screening Recommendations: The ASCCP (American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology) in the U.S.A. advises combining the Pap test with an HPV test for cervical cancer detection in women aged 30 and above, enhancing the accuracy of the tests.

The Benefits of Combined HPV and Pap Testing

  1. Elevated Clinical Relevance: Modern research has illuminated that coupling Pap cytology with HPV testing heightens the precision of identifying pre-cancer and cancer in the cervix.
  2. Accuracy: Co-testing ensures near-perfect accuracy. Women with a negative result for high-risk HPV types (notably HPV type 16 and 18) and a standard Pap result are unlikely to develop cervical cancer in the subsequent few years. Such women can comfortably await another 3 years before the next test.
  3. Enhanced Information: The co-testing results furnish invaluable information for medical professionals, allowing for better treatment planning and effective monitoring.

The Cervical Cancer Diagnostic Procedure

To diagnose cervical cancer, cell samples from the cervix are essential. Doctors employ a spatula, swab, or soft cervical brush to gently gather cells from the patient's cervix. These samples are preserved in a liquid solution and dispatched to a laboratory, where a meticulous HPV and Pap smear evaluation for abnormalities is conducted.