According to The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, about 11,270 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed last year, and about 4,070 women died from the disease.
On top of this, some researchers believe that non-invasive cervical cancer (or carcinoma in situ) is about four times more common than the invasive form.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website states that cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States. Fortunately, in the last 40 years the number of cases and deaths has both dropped significantly, due in large part to women getting regular Pap smears.
While I’m always happy to read that any type of cancer death has declined, to me current estimates mean that way too many women still have to face and fight cervical cancer. So anything and everything that we can do to prevent it is extremely important and may also literally save our lives.
Before we discuss the various ways we can prevent cervical cancer, it’s important to take a closer look at the risk factors. Two things that have been shown to increase the risk of developing cervical cancer include human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and smoking. Of these, HPV infection is the most common cause. Of the more than 80 types of HPV, about 30 affect the cervix and about half of those can cause cervical cancer. Being infected is common, but fortunately only a small percentage of women with HPV go on to get cancer. But it’s still something to be aware of and try to prevent. Women who become sexually active when they are young and who have many partners are more likely to develop HPV.
Other risk factors may increase the chance of developing cervical cancer. These include having a high number of full-term pregnancies and long-term use of oral contraceptives.