If you or your provider suspects that you may have developed cervical cancer, there are a variety of tests that can be used to help diagnose your condition. One of the most commonly used tests is a Pap test, sometimes called a Pap smear. Most women will undergo a Pap test once a year after the age of 21. During the test, cells are taken from your cervix and examined under a microscope, where abnormal cells can be seen.
Your provider may also suggest a biopsy, in which cells are surgically removed from your cervix for testing. There are several techniques for obtaining a biopsy of the cervix. These include punch biopsies, where the provider uses a sharp device to pinch off a small sample of cervical tissue. Another technique is called a LEEP biopsy, where the provider uses an electric wire loop to slice off a thin, round piece of tissue. A third technique is referred to as endocervical curettage, where the provider uses a small, spoon-shaped instrument called a curette, or a soft, thin brush to scrape a small sample of tissue from the cervical canal. A final technique is known as conization, where the provider removes a cone-shaped sample of tissue for testing.
Removing tissue from the cervix may cause some bleeding or other discharge and you may also feel some pain similar to menstrual cramps. Fortunately, this area usually heals quickly. In the meantime, your provider can suggest a medication to help relieve any discomfort.
If cancer is present, your provider may suggest one or more imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, an ultrasound, a CT scan, or a chest X-ray. These tests can help determine if your cancer has spread to other parts of your body.