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If caught early, cervical cancer has a survival rate between 93% and 80%. The risk of developing cervical cancer is 3-10 times higher for women who have not had Pap tests.
For starters, cancer is a disease in which the body’s cells grow in unpredictable and unmanageable ways. Cervical cancer is when this occurs in the cervix, which is the lower, narrower end of the uterus. Although the disease only affects women, the family, friends, and surrounding community are also impacted. Cervical cancer screenings are an effective way to detect cervical cancer and to identify the signs of cancer occurring in the future. Since the rate of survival is so high when abnormal cells are detected early, you would imagine that these screenings occur regularly.
Unfortunately, Utah has the lowest rates in the nation for cervical cancer screenings!
There are two main types of cervical cancer screenings; Pap Tests and HPV tests. Pap tests check the uterus and cervix for ‘precancers,’ which are abnormal cell changes that can be observed over time or removed. HPV tests inspect the body for the presence of HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which is a virus that cause cervical cells to start growing abnormally or uncontrollably, leading to cervical cancer.
There are multiple efforts a woman can do to prevent cervical cancer from developing. Preventative measures include:
Click here to learn more about when to get Pap tests and/or HPV vaccines.
Knowing the symptoms of gynecological cancers can help you detect cancer early.
Stages of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer has four main stages of development, Stages 0, I, II, III, and IV. Abnormal cells are identified during Stage 0 (named ‘carcinoma in situ’); the cells can be identified but are not yet cancerous.
Stage I cervical cancer is when the cancer is positively identified but the cancer is only present in the cervix. Depending on the amount of cancer found, there are subcategories of this stage.
Stage II cervical cancer is found when the cancer has spread to other parts of the gynecological area but has not reached the pelvic wall (the tissues between the hips that join them). Again, depending on the amount of cancer present, subcategories of this stage may be used.
During Stage III cervical cancer, the cancer has spread to the lower portion of the vagina, reached the pelvic wall, and/or caused kidney problems.
Stage IV cervical cancer is divided into two categories (IV A and IV B) depending on where the cancer has spread. In IV A, the cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the bladder or rectum. In IV B, the cancer has spread to various other parts of body, such as lungs, distant lymph nodes, liver, and bones throughout the body.
There are three main types of treatment for cervical cancer, which are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Depending on the amount and type of cancers, surgical options include conization, hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, pelvic exenteration, cryosurgery/cryotherapy, laser surgery, and loop electrosurgical excision procedure/LEEP. With proper treatment, survival rate can be very high. The research STRONGLY supports emphasizes that early detection allows for the best survival rates, which is why screenings and tests are so important. Here are the five-year survival rates based on the stages of cervical cancer development. Also, the mortality rate (the rate at which people die as a result of a particular cause) for cervical cancer is on the decline. In fact, the mortality rate has decreased dramatically over the past 25 years, especially among Black and Hispanic Americans.
*NOTE* The graph above shows two lines, but there are four options listed on the right. Since there were few cases of cervical cancer in Utah, it would not be wise to put the data since it would threaten the anonymity of the individuals who died of cervical cancer. Therefore, this graph only shows US data.
Cervical cancer can be a complicated topic, but all women (and people who care about them) should be aware that cervical cancer is an issue to be addressed, head-strong and with prevention in mind. Regular cervical cancer screenings as well as preventative efforts to lower your risk are key. Don’t let the women in your life put off these life-saving procedures and if you are due for a PAP test, be sure to schedule one. Please consult with your physician if you have medical questions or are interested in screening/prevention measures. In this case prevention is easy, so you owe it to yourself (and to the women in your life) to promote regular screening.