Towards improving cervical cancer screening in Nigeria: A review of the basics of cervical neoplasm and cytology
Cervical cancer screening is the key to reducing the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in developing countries. In the absence of a national screening program, healthcare givers in Nigeria are encouraged to routinely inform and screen eligible women. This review aims at equipping health workers for this task by re-educating them on the basics of the disease and its screening by cytology. Relevant texts and online databases including Pubmed, African Journal Online, and Google Scholar, were searched for relevant literature on the subject area. Persistent infection by a high-risk human papilloma virus, especially types 16 and 18, is necessary for the development of cervical cancer. The exfoliation of cells from the metaplastic squamous cells of transformation zone of the cervix is the basis of cervical cytology. Organized Pap screening reduces the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer, but screening protocols vary. Nevertheless, annual screening is not recommended except for high-risk women such as HIV-positive women. Abnormal Pap smear results are currently reported using either the Bethesda System or the British Society for Clinical Cytology classification, and colposcopy with or without biopsy are necessary when indicated. In conclusion, the use of cervical cytology to detect precancerous lesions followed by an appropriate treatment when necessary is the key to reducing invasive cervical cancer. The task of provider-initiated counseling and testing for cervical cancer by health practitioners requires update on the current etio-pathology of cervical cancer, and its screening as reviewed.