The American Social Health Association (ASHA) and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition have named January Cervical Health Awareness Month to encourage women across the country to get screened for cervical cancer and receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if they are eligible.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), almost 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2020 and an estimated 4,290 women died from the disease.
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up. Two screening tests that can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early is the Pap test and the HPV test. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
The ACS regularly reviews and updates the cervical cancer screening recommendations when new evidence suggests that a change may be needed. The latest recommendations are:
• All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21.
• Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. They should not be tested for HPV unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
• Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, however, it is also reasonable to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
• Women over age 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer should continue to be screened.
• Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer should not be screened.
• Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
• Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer may need to be screened more often. Women at high risk might include those with HIV infection, organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES (Estrogen prescribed in pregnancy, removed from the market in 1971, daughters have an increased risk of vaginal and cervix cancer). They should talk with their doctor or nurse.
At Alliance Cancer Care, we treat gynecologic cancers, including cervical cancer, painlessly and noninvasively with radiation therapy. We use external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) to deliver high-energy X-rays which causes damage to cancer cells and thus their ability to multiply. Treatments only take about 15 to 30 minutes and side effects are usually minimal. Several factors determine candidacy for radiation therapy treatment including the stage of the cancer, potential side effects, age, and overall health.
If you have any questions about radiation treatment for cervical cancer, schedule a consultation using our Contact Form or call our centers at (256) 319-5400.