Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Patient Education at Southern Regional

Before you can launch an effective battle against cervical cancer, it's important to understand the basics. Here you'll find some answers that will help you move forward with a solid grounding in the facts and be able to more effectively fight cervical cancer.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the cervix. In the past, cervical cancer was the leading cause of death for women in the United States. However, during the last 4 decades, incidence and mortality from the disease have declined significantly, primarily because of the widespread use of the Papanicolaou (Pap) test to detect cervical abnormalities.

Recent trends suggest that cervical cancer incidence and mortality continue to decrease significantly overall and for women in every racial and ethnic population. However, rates are considerably higher among hispanic and black women.

Prevention and Detection

All women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than when they are 21 years old. Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every two years using the newer liquid-based Pap test.

Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every two to three years with either the conventional (regular) or liquid-based Pap test. Women who have certain risk factors such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy or chronic steroid use should continue to be screened annually.

Another reasonable option for women over 30 is to get screened every three years (but not more frequently) with either the conventional or liquid-based Pap test, plus the HPV DNA test.

When to Stop Screening

Women 70 years of age or older who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having cervical cancer screening. Women with a history of cervical cancer, DES exposure before birth, HIV infection or a weakened immune system should continue to have screening as long as they are in good health.

Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may also choose to stop having cervical cancer screening, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue to follow the guidelines above.

Risk Factors

The following risk factors increase the chance of developing cervical cancer.

Human papillomavirus infection – The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV)

Certain types of sexual behavior increase a woman's risk of getting HPV:

  • Sex at an early age
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Having sex with uncircumcised males

Smoking – Women who smoke are about twice as likely as nonsmokers to get cervical cancer

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection – HIV is the virus that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Because this virus damages the body's immune system, it makes women more at risk for HPV infections, which may increase the risk of cervical cancer.

Chlamydia infection – Chlamydia is a common kind of bacteria that can infect the female reproductive system. It is spread by sexual contact. Some recent studies suggest that women with past or current chlamydia infection are at greater risk for cervical cancer.

Oral contraceptives – There is evidence that long-term (> 5 years) oral contraceptive (OC) use increases the risk of cancer of the cervix.

Multiple pregnancies – Women who have had many full-term pregnancies have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.

Low socioeconomic status

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) – DES is a hormonal drug that was prescribed between 1940 and 1971 for some women thought to be at increased risk for miscarriages. About one daughter out of every 1,000 women who took DES when pregnant with them, develops cancer of the vagina or cervix.

Family history of cervical cancer – Recent studies suggest that women whose mother or sisters have had cervical cancer are more likely to develop the disease themselves.

Treatment Options

In recent years, there have been many advances in treatments for cervical cancer.

Southern Regional provides the most advanced treatments and state-of-the-art surgical options. And we have plenty of resources to help you make informed decisions.