New Study Shows Cervical Cancer Deaths Underestimated

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2017.

A new study found that cervical cancer rates were higher than originally thought, finding that women are at higher risk for complications and death.

According to a study recently published in the journal Cancer, previous estimates did not account for women undergoing a hysterectomy procedure, which eliminates the chance of cervical cancer altogether.

When adjusted for women undergoing hysterectomy, researchers found that women are dying from cervical cancer at rates much higher than previously thought, with black women experiencing a 77% higher rate, and white women a 44% higher rate.

How Common Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is not one of the most common types of cancer, but it is one of the most preventable. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were nearly 13,000 cases of cervical cancer reported last year, including 4,120 deaths.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable because of the availability of screening mechanisms, as well as a vaccine to protect against the human papilloma virus, or HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is a main cause of cervical cancer.

Some experts posit that the racial disparities may be partially due to a lack of access. Historically, racial minorities are more likely to have trouble accessing health screenings such as an annual Pap smear.

The study’s authors conclude that the current screening guidelines are adequate, despite the fact that cervical cancer claims more lives than previously thought. Rather, public health advocates must work to make screening and vaccinations available to all, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

How Do We Prevent Cervical Cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends women begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21, by having a Pap test every three years. Once they turn 30, women should undergo a Pap and HPV test every 5 years. These guidelines are not universal, and may depend on your family history, among other factors.

One of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer is by getting the HPV vaccine, which is why most health care providers recommend giving your children the vaccine in their teens. Studies show that only about 40% of girls aged 13 to 17 have been vaccinated, leading one health care expert to call it an “epic failure of our health care system.”

The HPV vaccine does more than prevent cervical cancer. Each year,we discover nearly 39,000 cases of cancer in parts of the body where HPV is also found. The virus is also linked to cancers of the throat, anus, vagina, and penis.

A study published in JAMA Oncology found that among a representative sample of 1868 men in the United States, nearly half had a genital HPV infection, and only 10% had been vaccinated against the virus.

Taking Charge of Your Health

Part of what makes cervical cancer so deadly, and screening so important, is that symptoms don’t  appear until the cancer has progressed significantly. Screening aids in the early detection of cervical cancer, while it’s still in a treatable stage. With early intervention and targeted treatment, many women in the beginning stages of cervical cancer can recover and live a normal life. Once the cancer progresses, however, it can be difficult to treat successfully.

The American Cancer Society has pinpointed several risk factors for cervical cancer, which include:

  • Being overweight
  • Having an HPV infection.
  • Having a chlamydia infection
  • Smoking
  • Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Being younger than 17 for your first full term pregnancy
  • Having a family history of cervical cancer

If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor about your ideal cervical cancer screening schedule. Screening is simple, and may save your life.