It's been nearly 40 years since President Nixon declared the "War on Cancer." And while we've made great strides in screening, diagnosis and treatment, it is a rare cancer against which we've actually "won" the battle. More and more, however, it's looking like cervical cancer may be that cancer.
In 2008, there were an estimated 11,070 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,870 deaths, about 1 percent of all cancer deaths in women. This represents a 50 percent drop in cervical cancer incidence and deaths in the past 30 years, thanks to improved screening and early treatment. While such a drop is an amazing improvement, we are not yet where we need to be, particularly when it comes to minority women.
African-American women are 30 percent more likely to develop cervical cancer and twice as likely to die from it as Caucasian women. In addition, Hispanic women are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer, with 3 percent of all cancer deaths in Hispanics due to cervical cancer.
The numbers are even bleaker when you leave the United States. Although the global incidence and death rates of cervical cancer have plummeted 75 percent in the past 50 years in developed countries, cervical cancer remains the second most common cause of cancer and cancer deaths among women in developing countries, with a 55 percent mortality rate (compared to rates below 5 percent for most women in the United States). In fact, the World Health Organization reports that 83 percent of all cases of cervical cancer worldwide occur in developing countries.
This shows the importance of screening and prevention, which often isn't available in developing countries. In the United States, however, low-income, uninsured and medically underserved women have access to the state and federally funded National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which covers cervical and breast cancer screenings. For information on a participating clinic in your area, go to http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp.
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