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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 investigate Stage 4 Cervical cancer trends 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 largest increase occurring among white Southern women aged 40 to 44, among whom cases increased by 4.5% per 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 was born out of a study published last yearwhich found a 3.39% annual increase in advanced cases among women aged 30 to 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 Disaster Control and Prevention recommends women start having Pap tests at age 21 and receive follow-up 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 lifespan of five years survival rate over 90%.
Women should also get a routine human papillomavirus (HPV) test, according to the National Cancer Institute. guidelines. The the virus is linked over 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 CDCso 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”.