Advanced Cervical Cancer on the Rise Again


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – At one time in the United States, cervical cancer was one of the deadliest cancers, but the development of a screening test in the ‘40s and ‘50s caused a significant drop in deaths over several decades. Now, a new study shows the rates of advanced cervical cancer are growing again in a group of women who would least expect it.

A vaccine to prevent HPV, the human papilloma virus, and a decades-old screening test – the PAP test, developed by scientist George Papanicolaou, both credited with preventing cervical cancer.

Now, researchers at UCLA are studying trends in cervical cancer rates have found an increase in stage four, or advanced disease, in women over 40.

“Those women have about a 17% overall survival at five years,” emphasizes Dr. Robert Edwards, MD.

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Edwards is a specialist in gynecologic oncology at the University of Pittsburgh. He says women in their 40s and 50s can fall through the cracks when it comes to routine screening.

“They’re not old enough to have other medical conditions. They’re too old to need contraception. So, they really don’t have any other reason to come to the doctor,” he explains.

Dr. Edwards says the HPV vaccine, given to adolescents before they are sexually active, will help to eliminate cervical cancer. HPV is linked to more than 90 percent of all anal and cervical cancers.

The CDC recommends women start getting PAP tests at age 21 and receive a follow up every three years. The test picks up precancers, which can be removed. Cervical cancer detected early has a five-year survival rate of over 90 percent.

Researchers at UCLA also published a study early last year which found more than a three percent increase in advanced cervical cancers in women ages 30 to 34, suggesting more women are not undergoing screening. Some experts say limited access to healthcare and insurance could be contributing to the increase.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5142

BACKGROUND: This year it is estimated that 14,100 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed. More than 4,200 of these women will die. This cancer was one of the leading causes of death for women in America. This cancer starts in a female’s reproductive organs and is the only gynecologic cancer that has screening tests. A Pap test can detect abnormal cervical cells, including cancer and pre-cancerous changes to cells.


DIAGNOSING: Cervical cancer is most often diagnosed in women aged between 35 and 44, with an average age of 50. It rarely will appear in individuals younger than 20. If a doctor diagnoses cervical cancer, you should be referred to a gynecologic oncologist – a doctor trained in treating cancer of the reproductive system. The extent of the disease will be placed into a stage to determine a treatment plan after diagnosis. It is treated in several different ways depending on how far it has spread. Treatment will include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: In recent years, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test is being used as an approved screening test. This is because most cervical cancers are caused by HPV. These tests look to detect an infection from higher-risk kinds of HPV that may cause cervical cancers. Vaccines to prevent HPV are growing as effective treatments to prevent HPV. These vaccines can prevent many kinds of cervical cancer if the vaccine is introduced before women are exposed to the virus.



Cyndy Patton

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Robert Edwards, MD, Chair of the Department of Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Sciences

Read the entire Q&A