Medical Moment: Advanced cervical cancer on the rise, study says

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:38 PM EST
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(WNDU) - At one point, cervical cancer was one of the deadliest cancers in America.

But the development of a screening test helped cause death rates to drop!

Now, a new study shows the rates of advanced cervical cancer are growing again. And it’s affecting 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 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 percent overall survival at five years,” said Robert Edwards, MD, Ob/GYN UPMC.

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

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

Dr. Edwards went on to say that when the HPV vaccine is 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.

UCLA researchers have found more than a three percent increase in advanced cervical cancers in women ages 30 to 40. They think rising health care costs are adding to the number of undetected cases.