Gynecologic cancer awareness month: cervical cancer revisited

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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cervixSeptember is the Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month in the US. Cervical cancer is the most common form of gynecological cancer.

Here are the latest statistics on cervical cancer (source: Medical Minute at Physorg):

  • Cervical cancer is the 5th most common form of cancer in women worldwide.
  • It is predicted that 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2009.
  • An estimated 4,000 women in the US will die of the disease.
  • Worldwide, millions of women do have access to cervical cancer screening.

Do you know that cervical cancer is one of, if not the most easily detectable, easily cured, and most preventable forms of cancer? Compared to some other cancers and many chronic diseases, it is considered “rare”.

The keys to the success in fighting cervical cancer are

  • early detection through effective screening by the Pap test
  • vaccination against the most common strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV).

A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that HPV infection (as indicated by genital warts) that persists for 6 months to 1 year was strongly associated to increased risk of high-grade cervical lesions that can lead to cervical cancer. Combined with the Pap test, persistence of HPV infection is a very effective tool in early screening and detection of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer got global attention earlier this year when the cancer battle of UK’s Jade Goody was turned into a reality show. During her struggle and even after her death, health authorities reported a surge in inquiries about cervical cancer and an increased demand for HPV vaccine, the so-called “Jade Goody effect.” The latest statistics from the CDC showed that 1 in 3 girls in the US have received vaccine against HPV. The vaccination rates in the US increased to about 37% last year. The rates, however, seem to vary from state to state. The highest rates were reported in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts (more than 50%) while the lowest rates were reported in Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina (less than 20%). It is noted that cervical cancer rates are among the highest in those states where vaccination rates are lowest.

The HPV vaccine is effective against the HPV strains that cause 70% of cervical cancer. It is indicated for girls starting at age 11 before they get sexually active. It comes in 3 doses over 6 months. It is said to be the most expensive of childhood inoculations but most health insurance providers cover it.

Photo credit: wikicommons

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