In women, two of the most common types of cancer can be detected within the gynecological examination at the early stage or even in the form of precancerous condition, which greatly increases the chances of cure: cervical cancer (cervical carcinoma) and breast cancer (breast carcinoma). Early gynecological diagnostics includes a consultation with a doctor (anamnesis collection), instructions for an independent examination of the breast, palpation of the mammary glands by the doctor, examination of the internal genital organs, and cytological examination (analysis of the smear from the external orifice of the uterus).
Women aged more than 20 years should visit a gynecologist every year for a preventive checkup so that the doctor can recognize the possible signs of cervical cancer development. For women aged more than 30 years, it is recommended to undergo further examination of the mammary glands. For women aged from 50 to 70 years, an early gynecological diagnostic program includes mammography, recommended to pass every two years.
More information on each type of examination
Consultation with a doctor (anamnesis collection)
First, the doctor will ask in detail about the presence of complaints and possible risk factors. In addition, they are interested in various points, such as date of the last menstrual period or type of contraception used. If it is the first examination of a patient in this medical practice, a gynecologist will also record the patient’s anamnesis and oncological diseases, which occurred in her family.
Palpation of mammary glands and instructions for self-examination of breast
During the examination, the doctor palpates the breast tissue to reveal possible seals and other nodular changes in the tissue. In addition, they control whether lymph nodes in the auxiliary cavities are enlarged.
If necessary, the gynecologist will explain to you how you can perform regular palpation of your mammary glands by yourself to recognize any alterations.
Examination in the gynecological chair
As a part of this examination, the doctor examines the visible area of female genital organs: large and small lips of pudendum, vaginal orifice, vagina itself and uterine cervix.
The doctor performs external palpation of the internal organs through the abdominal wall, first, palpation of the uterus body and through the vagina from the inside, examines the uterine cervix or external orifice of the uterus and uterine body for the presence of possible changes.
After that, the doctor examines the internal genital organs, using a metal spreader, called a gynecological mirror, for better examination of the organs. By mirror reflector alignment, the doctor can smoothly spread the vagina and carefully examine it.
During the examination, with the help of a special brush or spreader, the doctor takes for examination the cellular material from the external orifice of the uterus and uterine cervix. A smear with the obtained cells is sent to the laboratory, where pathologists examine it under a microscope, and the results of the examination are classified into different groups, the so-called Pap groups. With the help of the Pap test, significantly altered mucosal cells can be detected. However, not in all cases, alterations do mean cancer: more often, the cells of mucous membrane change due to inflammation. Precancerous conditions or real cancer cells are less common. If possible, the Pap test should be performed once a year in order to recognize possible changes and carry out treatment at the early stage. The name of the test comes from the name of an anatomist George Papanicolaou, who developed this method in the United States. As a part of the program for early diagnostics of cancer, the Pap test is paid by the health insurance cash registers in the system of statutory health insurance.
Examination of the external orifice of the uterus and vagina with the help of a special optical device (colposcopy)
If necessary, colposcopy is also included in the gynecological examination program. Using a magnifying glass (colposcope), the doctor can examine the surface of the uterine cervix and vagina with scaling-up of 10-40 times. As in the examination with smear sampling, the doctor spreads the vagina with a gynecological mirror. In order to obtain more precise examination of mucous membrane of the uterine cervix and vagina, images are transferred to the monitor. Through the optics of the device, the doctor can detect even minor changes and classify them as benign or malignant.