By Natalia Gurevich, SWHR Communications Intern
More than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than one third of those diagnoses will be fatal . According to a recent study published this week in the journal Cancer, cervical cancer mortality rates are much higher than previously thought .
New research shows that black women are especially affected, dying from cervical cancer at a rate 77 percent higher than originally thought, and that white women are dying at a rate 47 percent higher .
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina . Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, are a contributing factor in cervical cancer. In some infected women, the HPV virus survives for years and causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancerous .
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women, but because it develops gradually over time, it is one of the most easily preventable forms of cancer. In the U.S., there has been a steady decline in the number of fatal cases, at about 2 percent each year. This decline is due to the increased use of Pap tests for women and the implementation of the HPV vaccine, leading to early detection and treatment .
Women are recommended to get their Pap tests around age 21 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and should continue to get tests every 3 years and eventually around age 30, every 5 years . The CDC also advises girls ages 11-12 to get their first dose of the HPV vaccine . Most cases of serious or fatal cervical cancer occur in women who have not adhered to the proper screening and procedures for Pap tests .
Cervical cancer is a serious affliction, affecting women every year, but it is treatable. In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this year, make an appointment to get screened for cervical cancer and learn more about what you can do to support the cervical cancer community here.
The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) is dedicated to education and awareness on all women’s health issues. If you have any questions regarding your Pap test options or cervical cancer in general, speak with your healthcare provider. You can also read SWHR’s information on cervical health here.
The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR ®) is a national non-profit based in Washington D.C. that is widely recognized as the thought-leader in promoting research on biological differences in disease and is dedicated to transforming women’s health through science, advocacy, and education.