Late-Stage Cervical Cancer Cases are Rising – Experts Encourage Screenings
Intermountain Healthcare caregivers say screenings and awareness are key to early detection and treatment
Salt Lake City, UT (PRUnderground) December 15th, 2022
A recent study finds that late-stage cervical cancer cases are on the rise in the United States, and some researchers say that a decrease in screenings among young women could be why more women are being diagnosed with the deadly disease.
The study published in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer analyzed data from nearly 30,000 women diagnosed with advanced diseased.
Historically, Black women have had the highest rates. In fact, according to the study, it’s nearly 60% higher than white women. However, the new data revealed that one type of advanced cancer, adenocarcinoma, increased at nearly twice the rate in white women, leading researchers to conclude that these women had fewer screenings and fewer lifesaving HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccines that protect against cervical cancer.
More than 14,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with screenings, tests, and vaccination.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of a woman’s cervix. The cells in the cervix don’t suddenly change into cancer. Instead, these cells slowly develop into pre-cancerous cells first, and then the cells become cancerous over time. This process usually takes several years.
“If these cells are not found and treated in their earliest stages, they can spread to other tissues or organs,” said Jon Grant, MD, radiation oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare. “This is why early prevention and screening are so important.”
Causes and Risk Factors:
A number of risk factors can increase your chances of getting cervical cancer. The most common risk factors for cervical cancer are:
- HPV – There are several types of the human papillomavirus. HPV can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact. It is a common cause of genital warts and can infect the cells of the mouth, throat, genitals, and anus.
- Early onset of sexual activity
- Multiple sexual partners
- Other medical conditions – Other illnesses that attack the body’s disease-fighting (immune) system, such as HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or an organ transplant have a greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Chlamydia – The sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a common and often doesn’t have any symptoms. Left untreated, it can cause inflammation and infertility.
A screening test, called a Pap smear, can find abnormal cells before they become cancer. During a Pap smear, cells from the cervix are collected and examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer. Intermountain Healthcare follows the recommendation from the American Cancer Society that all women begin cervical cancer testing at age 21.
What is the HPV Vaccine?
The HPV vaccine helps keep people from getting infected with HPV. It may also prevent mouth, throat, penile, and anal cancers. The vaccine doesn’t prevent any other types of sexually transmitted infections. Similar to other vaccines, it can help prevent infection, but doesn’t cure HPV in patients who have already acquired the disease.
Who should get the HPV vaccine?
It’s recommended that boys and girls get the vaccine between ages 9-26. For those who are 15 years and older, treatment consists of three vaccines over six months. Children younger than 15 years receive two vaccines six months apart.
It’s best to start the vaccine before becoming sexually active, as the treatment only works to prevent HPV, not to cure the infection.
Talk to your provider, as he or she may still recommend the vaccine even if you’re already sexually active.
Do women still need a pap smear if she gets the HPV Vaccination?
It’s still recommended that women start receiving regular pap smears at 21 years of age to test for cervical changes and HPV. Depending on a woman’s results, she may need to have a pap smear every 1 to 3 years.
Most people infected with HPV don’t experience signs or symptoms and usually never develop any problems from the infection. Scientists have identified more than 100 types of HPV, forty of these are known to infect the cervix, and 15 are known to cause cervical cancer.
Because there are so many types, HPV infections are classified on a scale between high and low risk. If you become infected with HPV, it’s important to follow your provider’s recommendations for regular check-ups.
For more information on cervical cancer, HPV, Pap smears, or to find a physician, visit www.Intermountainhealthcare.org/cancer or go here.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Headquartered in Utah with locations in eight states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information and updates, click here