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#ServiceYourCervix: SHAKE's guide to cervical cancer screening

Welcome SHAKE readers!


This is our first blog of the new year so HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!! Today is World Cancer Day and we are backkkk with our #ServiceYourCervix Campaign which aims to remind everyone that with Cervical Cancer knowledge is power, and prevention is key!!! So today’s blog will be about…. You guessed it.. PREVENTION! One of the key preventative mechanisms we have for cervical cancer is SCREENING which has been designed to catch abnormalities before they evolve into something more serious. So get your favourite drink, sit back, relax and let us take you on a tour of the different screening methods out there!!!


HPV Testing

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is common viral infection that can lead to cervical cancer (and actually 99% of cervical cancers are caused by this virus)!

HPV testing involves checking for the presence of high-risk HPV strains that are more likely to cause cervical abnormalities. When combined with a Pap smear (see below), HPV testing provides a comprehensive approach to screening, offering a more accurate assessment of a woman's risk.



  • High Sensitivity: HPV testing is highly sensitive, detecting the presence of high-risk HPV strains with accuracy.

  • Enhanced Risk Assessment: Combined with a Pap smear, HPV testing provides a more comprehensive evaluation of a woman's risk.



  • Potential Overdiagnosis: Like Pap smears, HPV testing may lead to overdiagnosis and unnecessary interventions.

  • Limited Information: Alone, HPV testing may not provide detailed information about specific abnormalities.




Pap Smear

This is a simple yet effective procedure which involves collecting cells from the cervix to detect any irregularities or abnormal changes. This is the most common test for early changes in cells that can lead to cervical cancer and may be combined with an HPV test.


Here's how the Pap smear process typically unfolds:

  1. Collection of Cells: During a pelvic exam, a healthcare provider uses a tool called a speculum to gently open the vagina, allowing clear access to the cervix. Using a small spatula or brush, they collect a sample of cells from the surface of the cervix.

  2. Slide Preparation: The collected cells are then spread onto a glass slide or placed in a liquid solution for preservation.

  3. Laboratory Analysis: The slide or liquid sample is sent to a laboratory where it is examined under a microscope.


  • Proven Effectiveness: Pap smears have been instrumental in reducing the number of people getting and dying from cervical cancer

  • Inexpensive: Compared to other screening methods, Pap smears are generally more affordable.

  • Routine Availability: Widely available, making it accessible to a large population.


  • Possible False Positives: Pap smears may sometimes yield false positives, leading to unnecessary anxiety and follow-up procedures.

  • Limited Specificity: While effective, Pap smears may not identify all cervical abnormalities.


Liquid-Based Cytology

Liquid-based cytology is a more recent advancement in cervical cancer screening that enhances the precision and accuracy of cell analysis compared to traditional Pap smears.

Here's how the liquid-based cytology process typically unfolds:

  1. Collection of Cells: Similar to a Pap smear, a healthcare provider collects cells from the cervix during a pelvic exam. However, instead of directly spreading the cells on a glass slide, the collected sample is rinsed in a liquid solution.

  2. Preservation and Processing: The liquid-based sample is preserved in a vial, which is then sent to the laboratory.

  3. Microscopic Examination: The prepared slide is examined under a microscope by for abnormalities.


  • Improved Accuracy: Liquid-based cytology reduces the chances of false negatives, providing a more accurate assessment.

  • Integration with HPV Testing: Often used in conjunction with HPV testing for a more thorough examination.


  • Cost: Liquid-based cytology can be more expensive than traditional Pap smears.



Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA)


Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) is a cervical cancer screening method that is commonly used especially in resource-limited settings. It involves the application of acetic acid (commonly known as vinegar) to the cervix, followed by a visual examination of the changes in the cervical tissue. This procedure is designed to detect abnormalities or precancerous lesions that may indicate the presence of cervical cancer.


Here's how the VIA process typically unfolds:

  1. Application of Acetic Acid: A healthcare provider applies a solution of acetic acid to the cervix. This acidic solution causes changes in the cervical cells, making abnormalities more visible during the examination.

  2. Visual Examination: The cervix is then visually inspected using a colposcope, a magnifying instrument that allows for a closer and more detailed view of the cervical tissue. T

  3. Real-Time Results: One of the distinct advantages of VIA is that the results are obtained immediately. This allows for prompt diagnosis and, if necessary, immediate initiation of further diagnostic tests or treatment.


  • Accessibility: VIA is often more accessible, especially in resource-limited settings

  • Real-Time Results: Results are obtained immediately, allowing for prompt diagnosis and treatment initiation.

  • Cost-Effective: VIA is generally more cost-effective than some other screening methods.


  • Subjectivity: Interpretation relies on the visual judgment of healthcare providers, introducing an element of subjectivity.

  • Limited Sensitivity: VIA may not detect all cervical abnormalities



So there you have it!! Those are the main types of cervical screening!

Now SHAKE Africa has partnered with Whispa Health to provide VIA screening for women in Nigeria! If you would like to be involved, click here to donate!

We hope this was useful!!!

Happy World Cancer Day!

SHAKE Africa


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