Wellness Wednesday: Screening for Cervical Cancer

As we said last week, more than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. But since it is usually slow developing, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer.

prevent-cervical-cancerJust this week, we learned that Erin Andrews, Fox sportscaster and co-host of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, had surgery for cervical cancer last fall. Her cancer was discovered during a routine exam, after which she had two surgical procedures and was given the all clear by her physician.

This highlights the importance of routine screenings for all women. With the proper screening and routine examinations, this type of cancer can be found in its early stages, and women can make a complete recovery.

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which abnormal cells begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Over time, the abnormal cells may become cancer cells and start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and to surrounding areas.

What is Cervical Cancer Screening?

Early cervical cancer may not cause signs or symptoms. Women should have regular check-ups, including tests to check for human papillomavirus (HPV) or abnormal cells in the cervix.

  • A Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers or cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.

A Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory. If you get the HPV test along with the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test will be tested for HPV at the laboratory.

Screening Recommendations

jo2012041201The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin cervical cancer testing screening at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group.

The Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. However, it only screens for cervical cancer, and cannot detect uterine, ovarian or other reproductive cancers.

Women age 30-65 should be screened with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years or tested every 3 years with just the Pap test. Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer should be screened more often. You should speak to your doctor to determine your risk.

Women over 65 years of age who have had regular screenings in the previous 10 years should stop cervical cancer screening as long as they haven’t had any serious pre-cancers found in the last 20 years.

Low Cost Screenings

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to low-income, underserved, under-insured, and uninsured women in the U.S.

If you are looking for a Mercy Health System gynecologist, please visit our website and use our Find a Doctor tool.

Sources: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


More Information:

National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP)

American Cancer Society Screening Guidelines

Testing for Cervical Cancer [PDF]

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Wellness Wednesday: Finding Cervical Cancer Early

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. No one wants to talk about cervical cancer; but we should. Because it is highly preventable and when found early, it is also one of the most treatable cancer types.

Multiracial group of mature woman at fitness centerMore than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 of women die. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. But because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix—the lower part of the uterus. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer.

Although cervical cancers start from cells with pre-cancerous changes, only some will develop into cancer. It usually takes several years for cervical pre-cancer to change to cervical cancer, but it also can happen in less than a year. Cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50 percent. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early—when it is in its most curable stage.

The American Cancer Society′s estimates for cervical cancer in the U.S. for 2017 are:

  • About 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed.
  • About 4,210 women will die from cervical cancer.

Risk Factors

Friends having funThere are many risk factors which may increase the odds of developing cervical cancer. Some of these include:

Screening Recommendations

The American Cancer Society recommends that women follow these guidelines to help find cervical cancer early. Following these guidelines can also find pre-cancers, which can be treated to keep cervical cancer from forming.

  • Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group (it may be used as a part of follow-up for an abnormal Pap test).
  • Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This should continue until age 65.
  • Another reasonable option for women 30 to 65 is to get tested every 3 years with just the Pap test.

Sources: NCCC, American Cancer Society


More Information

MHS Health Library: Cervical Cancer

NCCC Cervical Cancer

CDC Cervical Cancer

American Cancer Society Cervical Cancer Guide

Wellness Wednesday: Regular Health Screenings Can Help Keep Women Well

iStock_000018442717_LargeAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. But, thankfully, now most cervical cancers can be prevented.

In fact, over the last 40 years, the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths have decreased significantly due to women getting regular screenings that can find abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.

That’s why, during Cervical Health Awareness Month, Mercy Health System would like to encourage you to care for yourself, or the women in your life, by reminding you of the importance of regular health screenings.

A Pap test is recommended for women between ages 21 and 65, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. Women should start getting Pap tests regularly at age 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may say you can wait three years until your next Pap test. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. Both tests can be performed by your doctor at the same time. If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then say you can wait as long as five years for your next screening.

Remember, your health screenings are 100 percent covered by your health insurance as preventive care.

Also, having a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital. A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice. If you don’t have a PCP, it’s easy to find one. Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy Health physician, go to http://www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.


More information:

Cervical Cancer Facts – CDC

Cervical cancer screening with the HPV test and the Pap test in women ages 30 and older