Cervical cancer cases estimated to top 12,000 in 2015

Cervical cancer rates have dropped, but frequent screening needed

Over the past 30 years, deaths from cervical cancer has dropped over 50 percent. This drop is mainly in part to increased use of the Pap test. However, even with the significant decrease, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, over 12,000 new cases will be diagnosed and over 4,000 women will die in America from cervical cancer.

Early detection is your best defense against cervical cancer. In 2012, the guidelines for cervical cancer screening in the form of a Pap test was changed for healthy adult women.

    • Women aged 21–29 years should have a Pap test every three years.
    • Women aged 30–65 years should have a Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) every five years.

Why have cervical cancer screening guidelines changed?

“Clinical evidence indicates women who have low or no risk factors do not need to have frequent screening,” said Dr. Wendy Cutler, ADC OB/Gyn.  “Co-testing with HPV has given us more reassurance.”

Dr. Cutler explains that some patients would still need annual pap screens. Those patients would include anyone with “compromised immunity such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis,HIV infection or history of abnormal pap smears.”

The major risk factor for cervical cancer is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection.  Other risks such as compromised immune system, HIV infection, cigarette smoking or prior abnormal pap smear can also increase the risk for cervical cancer.

HPV is common among the general population. However, Dr. Cutler says just because you have one or two risk factors does not mean you will get cervical cancer. It’s reported that 80 to 90 percent of the women who contract HPV will recover within the first 8 months. Patients should discuss risks with their doctor.

Dr. Cutler recommends the HPV vaccine for female or male patients who are 9 to 26 years of age.  This vaccine will give you immunity to high risk HPV 16 and 18 which contribute to 70 percent of abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer.

Most women with precancerous cells and early stages of cervical cancer do not show any signs or symptoms. Most symptoms appear once the cancer has spread to surrounding tissue. These symptoms can include pain during intercourse, abnormal bleeding (postmenopausal, after intercourse or between regular periods) and unusual discharge.

Dr. Cutler explains that there are four stages of cervical cancer. Each stage is then subdivided into more detailed stages. Some of the very early stage of cancer can be treated with a cutting procedure of the cervix called CKC or a hysterectomy.  However, once the cancer cells started to spread, radiation and chemotherapy are needed.

Dr. Cutler says it is important to emphasize the pap screen guidelines are not for everybody. The pap smear is only one part of your gynecological exam.  It is still recommended to see your doctor annually for a pelvic exam to make sure the uterus and ovaries or other female organs are normal.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Society of Clinical Oncology
Healthy Women