Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, in the past 40 years, the number of cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly. This decline largely is the result of many women getting regular Pap tests1 , which can find cervical precancer before it turns into cancer.
Here is some 2013 Cervical Cancer Statistics2 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- 11,955 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer.
- 4,217 women in the United States died from cervical cancer.
More Black and Hispanic women get HPV-associated cervical cancer3 than women of other races or ethnicities, possibly because of decreased access to Pap testing or follow-up treatment. The incidence rate of cervical cancer decreased significantly by 2.3% per year among black women between 2003 to 2012 in the United States. The mortality trends decreased significantly by 2.2% per year among black women according to the CDC4.
Jay Harold recognizes the significant progress made in reducing cervical cancer deaths of African-American women. Increased awareness of the risk factors and symptoms of cervical cancer should prevent even more deaths. The following information was based on CDC and National Cancer Institute (NCI) data.
What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus5 (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts.
HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms so you can’t tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on
its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Cervical Cancer6?
Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer—
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. You should start getting Pap tests at age 21.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21.
If your Pap test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. For that reason, your doctor may tell you that you will not need another Pap test for as long as three years. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. If both test results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years to have your next Pap test. But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a checkup.
For women aged 21–65, it is important to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor—even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore. However, if you are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for several years, or if you have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition, like fibroids, your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have a Pap test anymore.
Free Booklet about Cervical Cancer
This booklet7 is from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and talks about invasive cervical cancer. Invasive cervical cancer has grown beyond the cells on the surface of the cervix and invaded cells deeper in the cervix. This is a fairly detailed 48-page overview designed for a woman who has just been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
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