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Learn More About Cervical Cancer Prevention

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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.

HPV Testing: Is it for You?

Add a Comment2 Comments

better protection than any vaccine, is monogamy

October 4, 2009 - 10:14am
EmpowHER Guest

I think US women are over-examined, over-screened, over-tested and over-treated to their detriment.
Finland has the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world AND (just as importantly) the lowest number of women sent for biopsies and false positives.
In that country, screening is offered from age 30 and then 5 yearly until 60 (usually...sometimes 50 or 55...depending on past results and sexual history)
Testing young women and testing too frequently means more women being referred for biopsies for false positives.
Biopsies are not to be taken lightly...they can leave you with psychological/psychosexual problems, infertility, problems during preganancy & cause pre-term birth.
Annual gyn exams - unnecessary in asymptomatic women and in fact, my Dr believes they can be harmful (they can lead to more & possibly, harmful testing)
The States and Germany are the only countries who recommend these exams.
Breast exams are NOT recommended in many countries until your 40's, as earlier exams are very likely to lead to biopsies & cancer in the under 40's is uncommon.
Virgins are even tested in the States! I understand they're pressured to have annual gyn exams and smears. Virgins are not offered screening in any other country in the world - the risk to benefit ratio makes it unethical IMO...
Routine gyn exams are not recommended for asymptomatic women...virgins or not. (except in Germany)

I was very concerned to see the amount of medical intervention in the lives of US women and most of it so terribly unpleasant.
I'd look around the world....before I agreed to these exams and tests.
They can hardly be vitally important when the vast majority of the world's doctors don't recommend them at all.
Also, mammograms are recommended from age 40 in the States. In my country, they're offered from age 50...but more women are declining them due to the increasing evidence about the risks of testing.
Professor Michael Baum (UK breast cancer surgeon) is very concerned about the number of false positives and unnecessary surgery and treatment...also, the dilemma of ductal carcinoma in situ, a slow moving cancer that usually doesn't bother a woman...you'll die of something else first, but once biopsied, it can become aggressive..so usually it's discovery through screening, means the breast comes off...
Also, new research by the Nordic Cochrane Institute that suggests regular mammograms may INCREASE the risk of breast cancer...perhaps, it's the radiation and/or the damage to breast tissue.
Anyway, if you have mammograms, be careful about starting them before you're 50....

One other point...if you were both virgins and you're in a mutually monogamous relationship...you may choose not to have pap smears. You have to catch HPV from someone and you can't catch it from a virgin.
Most doctors just seem to push all women into testing...but when the test is unreliable and there is a high risk of a false positive and biopsies, then the decision whether to accept that risk, MUST rest with the woman.

There are risks as well as benefits with cancer screening...so it's important to know,
A) how common is the cancer,
b) your risk profile &
c) the risks of testing.
I then weigh up the risks v benefits before agreeing to the test.
As cancer screening is offered to healthy people, you must give your informed consent...no Dr
can push you into screening...it's unethical and possibly, more than that...
The practice in the States, of making cancer screening a pre-requisite for the Pill, is highly unethical...birth control has nothing to do with cancer screening...to require it, amounts to coercion IMO and is a violation of your right to decide...
This practice disregards the recommendations from WHO, the US Food and Drug Admin & the American College of Ob & Gyns...
Planned Parenthood now offer the HOPE program for women who wish to access the Pill without these
unethical requirements.
It is your decision whether you participate, when you start and finish and how often you're tested...
Do your reading, stand up for yourselves, make informed decisions and protect your health.
Good luck everyone....
PS I lived in the States for 2 years and so had the opportunity to compare your healthcare system with those of Finland, the UK and Australia
There are lots of articles on line that will help with your research.
I'd recommed articles by Angela Raffle, a UK cervical cancer screening expert...her research showed that 1000 women need regular screening for 35 years to save ONE woman from cervical cancer. Her articles in the British Medical Journal are definitely worth a read.

August 25, 2009 - 6:10pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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