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New study finds late-stage cervical cancer cases are on the rise in the United States, and some researchers speculate that a decrease in screenings among young women may be the reason why more women are being diagnosed with the deadly disease.
While the overall rate of cervical cancer in the United States is falling, the number of women suffering from advanced stages of the disease – which has a five-year survival rate of 17% – is increasing.
Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles set out to study trends in stage 4 cervical cancer in the country by analyzing data from 2001 to 2018. In a study published Thursday in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, they found an increase of 1.3% per year in advanced stages of the disease, with the greatest increase occurring in white Southern women aged 40 to 44, among whom cases increased by 4.5% per year. year.
The researchers also found that black women have a higher overall rate of advanced cervical cancer, at 1.55 per 100,000, compared to 0.92 per 100,000 among white women.
Dr. Alex Francoeur, a fourth-year OB-GYN resident at UCLA, said the team’s recent study grew out of a study published last year, which found an annual increase of 3, 39% of advanced cases in women aged 30-34.
“It’s a disease that only 17% of patients will live beyond five years,” Francoeur said. “So if you’re a 30-year-old man who won’t live past his 35th birthday, that’s tragic.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women start having Pap tests at age 21 and receive follow-ups every three years, depending on their medical history. The test screens for precancers which, if found, can be surgically removed. Cervical cancer detected early enough can have a five-year survival rate of over 90%.
Women should also be routinely tested for human papillomavirus (HPV), according to National Cancer Institute guidelines. The virus is linked to more than 90% of all anal and cervical cancers, as well as a high percentage of other cancers.
Francoeur said she suspects many women put off routine testing because they don’t have any glaring health issues. But HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to the CDC, so common that most sexually active people will contract the virus at some point in their lives.
Another concern is that the most recent figures are from 2018, Francoeur said, which does not include the COVID-19 pandemic, during which routine health care for many was suspended.
“I’m afraid that over the past two years people have faced many barriers to accessing health care,” she said. “I think we could see this trend getting a bit worse before it gets better.”
Francoeur recommended that “even if you are in your late 20s and early 30s and have no medical conditions, you need a primary health care physician because routine health checkups save Lives”.