Cell changes in the cervix are mostly due to a viral infection. The most common type of cell change heals by itself. The type of cell changes that can develop into cervical cancer can be removed by a simple operation.
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. The very bottom is called the uterus, which is where cell changes can occur. Cell changes are not a disease in themselves but can be a precursor to cervical cancer.
Symptoms of Cell changes in the cervix
Cell changes cause no symptoms or inconvenience. They can only be detected by leaving a cell sample.
When and where should I seek care?
Cell changes cannot be detected in a regular gynecological examination. Therefore, it is important that you attend the cell test checks that the county councils offer.
Everyone many countries who have a uterus is regularly called gynecological cell sampling, called screening. You may also be allowed to submit cell samples if you are with a midwife or gynecologist to undergo a gynecological examination for other reasons.
How do cell changes in the cervix occur?
are because you have once been infected with HPV, human papillomavirus when you have had sex. You can have HPV without knowing it, as it is not always visible. Most people who get HPV notice nothing.
HPV infects at six
HPV is a very common virus that can be divided into over a hundred different types. Most types are harmless, but a few types of HPV can cause cell changes in the cervix that can eventually lead to cancer.
HPV is spread from person to person through contact with skin or mucous membranes. The viruses that cause cell changes and cervical cancer are transmitted through the mucous membranes at sex. HPV can infect all types of sex.
It takes a long time for cell changes to develop into cervical cancer, usually ten to fifteen years.
Even younger ones can get cervical cancer
Cervical cancer, unlike other gynecological cancers, is a disease that especially young women can get. Although the disease is very uncommon before the age of 25, it then increases.
Among women who have not undergone cell test, cancer is the most common form in the 40-50s.
Can be hereditary
Cell changes are not inheritable in themselves, but there may be some increased risk of developing cell changes if someone close relatives has also had cell changes.
Smokers have an increased risk of cell changes.
How can I prevent it?
If you go for regular cell tests, cell changes can be detected and treated well in advance.
You can also vaccinate yourself against a couple of the most common types of virus that can cause cancer in the cervix. To benefit from the vaccine, you should not be infected with the HPV virus. Therefore, it is best to get vaccinated before you start having sex. Vaccination against HPV is part of the general vaccination program for girls.
Even if you get vaccinated, it is important to keep going for gynecological cell test checks when you are called, as the vaccine’s protection against cancer is not complete.
Condom or femidom may provide some protection against the virus.
Test answers and investigations
Within six weeks of submitting a cell sample, you should receive a letter with the test answer, but sometimes it may take longer. About 95 out of 100 samples are without cell changes and are considered normal. You will then receive the answer sent home from the laboratory.
Sometimes it may not be possible to analyze the sample, for example, if there was a lot of men’s blood in it. Then you will be called to a new cell sampling.
If your sample shows cell changes, these are usually divided into three groups: light, medium, or difficult.
Minor cell changes if you are over 30 years old
If you have slight cell changes, the sample is usually examined directly in the laboratory with a virus test. The test checks for certain types of HPV, human papillomavirus.
It is a bit different in different parts of the country in what age you do virus testing. In some county councils, this testing is done for all age groups, while others do the testing for the age group over 30 years or over 35 years. The testing does not increase the safety of finding cell changes, but it does allow some harmless cell changes to be sorted out.
If you have slight cell changes
- that does not contain HPV, no further follow-up is usually needed. You get a call for a new cell sample three years later. In some county councils, you are called a new cell sample after one year.
- and the test shows that you have HPV, you need to be examined by a gynecologist. Then the information is sent to a gynecologist’s clinic near where you live and you are called for an examination.
Minor cell changes if you are under 30
If you are under the age of 30 and have had mild cell changes and HPV testing has not been performed, it is recommended that you either submit a new cell sample three to four months after the first or you will be examined by a gynecologist.
Light cell changes often heal by themselves. Therefore, the doctor usually waits with the gynecological examination. Often you may have to wait four to six months for the gynecological examination to be done. That time is needed for temporary irritation and viral infections to heal without treatment. You do not have to worry about developing cancer during the waiting period. It takes much longer than that for light cell changes to develop into cervical cancer, usually ten to fifteen years.
Medium or severe cell changes
If you have moderate or severe cell changes, you are always called to a gynecologist’s examination.
During the examination, the doctor takes, among other things, a cell sample and a tissue sample.
The doctor takes a cell sample and examines the uterus
The doctor often starts by taking a cell sample. Then they examine the womb with a special microscope called a colposcope. Then you can usually see the cell changes on the uterus.
The doctor bathes the uterus with a liquid used as a contrast agent. This makes it possible to see, among other things, how big the changed area is.
The examination does not hurt, but sometimes the fluid bathed on the uterus can swell a little while.
A sample from the womb is sent for analysis
Often, the doctor takes a tissue sample from the womb with a special instrument. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
It is not usually painful to take tissue samples but some may feel a slight pain for a short while.
When do I get an answer?
The samples are sent to the laboratory and the test answers will arrive within a couple of weeks. The doctor will then evaluate the test answers to find out if you need treatment. Sometimes a slight cell change has healed and is gone.
The doctor usually recommends that you be treated if the cell sample and the examination have shown moderate or severe cell changes.
If you are young, your doctor may suggest that you perform follow-up checks instead of treatment, even if the changes are moderate.
Treatment of cell changes in the cervix
There are different ways to treat cell changes:
- To remove the part of the uterus where the cell changes are.
- To destroy the tissue on the uterus with heat, freezing or laser.
The treatment of cell changes in the cervix is done in a hospital or at a gynecologist’s reception. The most common thing is that the procedure is done under local anesthesia, but if you want to be anesthetized it can usually be arranged.
If the procedure has been done with local anesthesia, you can immediately continue the day with the activities you usually have.
Afterward, you will do as usual but you should avoid vaginal intercourse for three to four weeks.
It is good if you use a bandage instead of a tampon or men’s cup for bleeding during this time.
To remove cell changes
The doctor cuts off a small piece of the uterine pin with filament or laser. It’s called a conization.
The tissue piece is then sent to a laboratory and examined. It provides information about the cell changes, how serious they are and whether the entire changed area was removed.
There are rarely problems after treatment. Small bleeding is usually the days after treatment. A few women who are being treated have more severe bleeding after treatment and may need to contact a gynecologist. The bleeding is usually easy to stop.
Some may have smelly fluids, but these usually disappear by themselves.
To destroy the tissue on the uterus
The doctor treats the uterus with heat, freezing, so-called cryo, or burning with a laser. Then the tissue is destroyed instead of the doctor cut it off.
When treated in this way, no tissue is available for laboratory examination. Therefore, these techniques are increasingly used.
What happens afterward?
Once your cell changes have been processed, you will be offered a return visit. Then the doctor checks that all changes are gone.
It is good if you continue to go on gynecological cell sampling for a longer period of time than others if you have ever had moderate or severe cell changes that have been confirmed by tissue testing. You who have had such cell changes in the future have a slightly increased risk of developing new cell changes that can develop into cervical cancer.
Most county councils have special follow-up programs with controls for those who have had severe or moderate cell changes.
Treatments and pregnancy
Treatments of cell changes do not make it more difficult to get pregnant. It usually does not cause any problems during pregnancy either.
Some women have widespread cell changes where the intervention needs to be greater. If you belong to that group and later become pregnant, there is an increased risk that you can give birth sooner than you would otherwise. Most people give birth in full time even after treatment of widespread cell changes.
It is important that you understand the information
In order for you to be active in your care and to make decisions, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare personnel. Ask questions if you don’t understand. You can also ask to have the information printed so that you can read it peacefully.
You also have the right to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing loss.
What happens in the body?
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus. The outermost part of the cervix that opens into the vagina is called the uterus. The inside and outside of the uterus are covered with different types of cells. Where the cells meet, in a stamp-sized area, cell changes can occur.
Cell changes are very rarely cancer
Many cell changes heal out of themselves or remain without developing into cancer. Every year, almost 450 women get cervical cancer while a significant number, about 30,000 women, are told that they have cell changes.
But if you have untreated cell changes for an extended period of time, which you do not know or are not controlled for, there is a high risk of developing cervical cancer.