Cervical cancer is one of the 5 main cancer types that affects women’s reproductive organs, and occurs in approximately 12,000 women in the United States each year.1 Although it is very curable when found and treated early on, early-stage cervical cancer may not cause any noticeable signs or symptoms. In advanced stages, however, the disease may cause vaginal bleeding or discharge that is abnormal for the patient.1
The survival rate for women with cervical cancer depends on a variety of factors, including the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis.2 Overall, the 5-year survival rate for women with cervical cancer is 68%. Among women whose cervical cancer is detected at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate is 91%. However, if the cancer has spread from the cervix to surrounding tissues, organs, or regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate declines to 57%, and if it has spread to a distant body part, the 5-year survival rate is even lower (17%).2
According to the National Institutes of Health, cervical cancer was a major cause of death for American women of childbearing age as recently as the 1940s.3 However, the introduction of the Pap (Papanicolaou) smear in the 1950s led to a dramatic decline in the incidence of invasive cervical cancer.3 Of note, incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer in the United States declined by >60% between 1955 and 1992.3
Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is estimated to be the most common sexually transmitted disease in America, is found in approximately 99% of cervical cancers.4 There are >100 unique HPV types—most of which are low-risk and do not cause cervical cancer; however, high-risk HPV types may lead to cervical-cell abnormalities or cervical cancer. HPV-16 and HPV-18 (often referred to as high-risk HPV types) are the cause of >70% of cervical cancer cases.4
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with regular screening tests and follow-ups, cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent.5 In addition to the Pap smear, which is recommended for all women aged 21 to 65 years, certain patients aged ≥30 years may choose to take an HPV test. If test results come back normal, the patient’s risk for cervical cancer in the next few years is very low, and her physician may tell her that she can wait as long as 5 years to have her next screening.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cervical cancer. December 2016. www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/pdf/cervical_facts.pdf. Accessed December 13, 2017.
- Cancer.Net. Cervical cancer: statistics. July 2017. www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/statistics. Accessed December 13, 2017.
- National Institutes of Health. Cervical cancer. Updated October 2010. https://report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/Pdfs/CervicalCancer(NCI).pdf. Accessed December 13, 2017.
- National Cervical Cancer Coalition. Cervical cancer overview. 2017. www.nccc-online.org/hpvcervical-cancer/cervical-cancer-overview/. Accessed December 13, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What should I know about screening? March 29, 2016. www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/screening.htm. Accessed December 18, 2017.