Printer Friendly PDF
Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the cervix or the lower part of a woman’s uterus. Cervical cancer is primarily caused by HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infections. While cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer death for women, the number of diagnoses and deaths has decreased dramatically due to early detection and prevention.
- This year alone, 12,170 new cases of cervical cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States.
- In 2012, 4,220 women in the United States are expected to die from cervical cancer.
- When detected early before the cancer spreads from the primary site, women have a 91 percent survival rate after five years.
- One in 147 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer during her lifetime.
- An estimated 1,255 Texas women will be diagnosed and 392 are expected to die from the disease in 2012.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): A large number of cervical cancer cases are caused by an HPV infection, which can trigger changes in cell reproduction, and in some cases, cause cervical cancer. Women who have had many sexual partners or began having intercourse at a young age face an increased risk for HPV infection.
- Age: Cervical cancer most often occurs in women between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Medical History: Women with HIV have a higher-than-average risk of developing cervical cancer. Also, women with a history of Chlamydia face an increased risk.
- Smoking: Female smokers double their risk of cervical cancer, compared to nonsmokers.
- Oral Contraceptives: Long-term use of birth control pills may increase the risk of cervical cancer, especially in women who have taken oral contraceptives for more than 5 years.
- Childbirth: Multiple childbirths can increase risk of developing cervical cancer. Women who have had more than six pregnancies face a higher risk, as well as women who have had a full-term pregnancy before age 17.
Symptoms and Signs
The early changes related to cervical cancer may not come with warning signs; however, women may notice symptoms and pain as the disease worsens. If any of the following symptoms or signs are present, women are encouraged to consult their physician for proper testing:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Painful intercourse
- Post-menopausal bleeding
- Pain in the pelvic area
Tips for Prevention
The most effective screening tool for cervical cancer is a Pap test where a cell sample is reviewed with a microscope. All women should have a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer at least once every year beginning at age 21 or approximately three years after having sexual intercourse, whichever comes first, regardless of whether they have received the HPV vaccine. Women in their 30s with three consecutive normal Pap tests may limit screenings to every two or three years. Physicians may recommend that women have more frequent screening if certain risk factors are present.
Girls and young women may also receive vaccinations to prevent the types of HPV infections that cause cancer. Two vaccines have been approved for use in females age 9-26 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines may reduce a woman’s risk of cervical cancer, but it is important to remember that HPV vaccines cannot prevent an existing infection.
Women should consult with a gynecologic oncologist to determine their specific treatment needs. There are several treatment options for cervical cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, depending on the stage of the disease. Each method may be used alone, or in combination with other treatments.
Source: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Cancer Registry