Most women are at greater risk of dying from cervical cancer than previously thought. The study supporting this statement also points out the racial differences in the risks of dying from the disease.
Prior estimates also took into consideration women who had undergone a hysterectomy, and who were no longer at risk. This paper is the first to only include women who still have a cervix.
Cervical Cancer, Responsible For More Deaths Than Previously Thought
The research, published, Jan. 23, in the journal Cancer of the American Cancer Society, obtained estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics and the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Mortality Database. The time frame analyzed as part of this research was from 2002 to 2012.
"A correction for hysterectomy has revealed that cervical cancer mortality rates are underestimated, particularly in black women. The highest rates are seen in the oldest black women, and public health efforts should focus on appropriate screening and adequate treatment in this population," noted the research.
Black women across the United States die from cervical cancer at a 77 percent higher rate than previously estimated, with a corrected rate of 10.1 per 100,000 women instead of 5.7. While white women also die at a higher rate due to this disease, the percentage is 47 percent, i.e. 4.7 per 100,000 women instead of 3.2 as previously thought. The situation among white women is still very serious, but significantly lower compared to black women.
Aside from pointing out a much more serious concerning the disease itself, this correction also shows a 44 percent higher disparity between races.
Additionally, throughout the decade during which the analysis was carried out, deaths caused by cervical cancer among white women dropped by 0.8 percent annually, compared to 3.6 percent annually among black women.
Although trends over time show that the racial disparity in cervical cancer mortality is closing, these data emphasize that it should remain a priority area," noted Dr. Anne Rositch, PhD, MSPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and lead author of the research.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Through Regular Testing
According to CDC recommendations, regular screening tests starting at age 21 are highly important. Should the results of these tests be within normal limits, the chances of getting the disease for the following years are very low. However, starting from the age of 30, the Pap test should be accompanied by an HPV test to take all precautions.
Supposing both the test results are normal, consequent regular check-ups are still necessary to minimize the chances of getting the disease.
In the case of women who are 65 or older, a Pap test may not be necessary, if the cervix was removed for non-cancerous reasons, or if the Pap test results were normal for several years in a row.
"Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor," notes a CDC 2016 fact sheet on cervical cancer.