VIA & cryotherapy

Testing to detect early signs of cervical cancer

An effective method for detecting abnormal cells in the cervix

This isn’t a test for cancer, but can detect abnormal cells that could lead to serious problems like cervical cancer.

Symptoms may not be experienced beforehand, until the condition is at an advanced stage.

Abnormal cells are not usually cancerous, especially if you have regular screenings. However, if abnormal cells are noticed at a screening they can be closely observed and/or treated to prevent cancer from developing. Regular screening has been proved to reduce the risk of advanced cancer by 90% on average for women aged 35-64.

General information on VIA

  • It is safe, inexpensive and easy to perform
  • The test performance is similar to other tests used for cervical cancer screening.
  • It is non- invasive and effectively identifies many precancerous lesions;
  • It can be learned and provided by almost all health professionals at all levels of the health care system.
  • It provides immediate results on which decisions about management (treatment or referral) based:
  • Most equipment and supplies for his service are locally available
  • Instant treatment (cryotherapy) can be linked to this type of screening to offer women screening and treatment in a single visit.
  • VIA and Treatment by Cryotherapy as a Single Visit Approach (SVA)

Target population: Women aged between 25 – 60 years (this is as per the Nepal government)

All women will be screened who attend the health centres/who are in target group (This is as per government)

Regardless of HIV status all women will be screened for cervical cancer. 

What to expect at your appointment

The procedure is generally very quick and painless, and may just be momentarily uncomfortable.

The practitioner will ask you to lie on a couch. They will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina in order to view your cervix. A small brush is used to take a sample. This picks up cells from inside the opening of the cervix. The test only takes a couple of minutes.

If you have any health concerns, further to your cervical screening, which you would like to talk about, you may also want to use your appointment to ask these questions.

Regular cervical screening tests are recommended for all women 25 years and older.

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Find our locations that offer cervical cancer screening

Frequently asked questions about cervical screening

How often should I be screened?

We recommend that women over the age of 25 get screened every 3 years until the age of 49, and then every 5 years until the age of 64.

How is the screening done?

The procedure is simple. The health care provider simply swabs vinegar, i.e. acetic acid, on the cervix and looks for areas that change color. Normal cervical tissue remains unaffected by the acetic acid, but damaged tissue -- such as that found in pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions -- turns white. The provider can then remove the damaged tissue on the spot using cryotherapy or other techniques, or they can perform a biopsy for further follow-up.

Will I have to undress for the screening?

You will be asked to undress from the waist down. If you are wearing a full skirt or a dress with a full skirt you can lift the skirt up rather than take it off. We will provide something for you to cover yourself with while we perform the test, if you like.

Does it hurt to have a cervical screening test?

Some women find it momentarily uncomfortable, but it is a very quick procedure. The apprehension, along with embarrassment, puts some women off having a smear test. Try not to worry. Many women will tell you that they found it fine and that it’s worth a little discomfort for peace of mind. It is best to relax as much as possible by breathing slowly and deeply to ease any tension.

Can I have sex before the screening?

Some chemicals found in spermicide, lubricant, or barrier methods of contraception such as condoms, cervical caps and diaphragms could affect the test. Please refrain from having sex using these methods of birth control for 24-hours before the test. Sex with any other contraceptive method before the test will be fine.

Receiving your results

We will contact you (by your preferred method), usually within 2 weeks of the procedure. The results you receive will be described as either:

  • Normal / negative
  • Unclear / insufficient / inadequate – meaning that the cells could not be viewed and we will need to take another sample in 3 months’ time
  • Abnormal / irregular – meaning that changes have been observed, either mild, moderate or severe

If your results are irregular or abnormal

Please don’t be frightened. Any change in the cells of the cervix usually happens very slowly, and may be cleared by the body’s immune system. Slight abnormalities are very common in women under 25. Abnormal cells are not cancerous, but could be an early warning sign which we need to keep an eye on.

We’ll send a full explanation of what the test results show and advise you on what to do next.

If your results show cell changes we may recommend that you have another smear test after a period of time, or suggest that you make an appointment for further investigation. Further investigation, such as a colposcopy, depends on the type of abnormality seen.