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Understanding Cervical Cancer with Dr. Mark Messing

January 21, 2020

As part of Cervical Health Awareness Month, Mark Messing, M.D., gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology–Bedford, discusses advancements in the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.

Women’s annual exams play a fundamental role in the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer.”

What should people know about cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. However, it is less common in the U.S. than it is in developing countries where access to screening is limited. These types of cancer start as precancerous lesions on the cervix, where they can exist for years before becoming tumors. Women’s annual exams play a fundamental role in the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. 

What are some common misconceptions you hear about cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is long known to be associated with sexual activity. However, it is now well known that it is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV has many subtypes but only a few are considered high risk for causing cancer of the cervix, anus, and head and neck. While HPV is a common virus, exposure does not often lead to precancerous lesions or cancer. Some people may be at higher risk for persistent HPV infections and development of HPV-related lesions.

How is cervical cancer typically prevented and treated?

The HPV vaccine is a proven protective treatment against HPV infection and reduces the risk of HPV-related cancers. Precancerous lesions can often be treated with a biopsy or hysterectomy with ovarian preservation. Radical hysterectomy is an option for women with more advanced local disease. However, radiation therapy with concurrent low-dose chemotherapy is the recommended treatment in non-surgical cases where there is a  large tumor or the cancer has spread to the pelvic tissues and lymph nodes. 

How has the treatment of cervical cancer evolved?

Promising developments in the treatment of advanced cervical cancer include the use of immunotherapy and new chemotherapy agents that enhance the body’s immune system to fight cancerous cells.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.