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Worldwide Facts About Cervical Cancer

Monday, January 7, 2013

  • Cervical cancer is the No. 1 women’s cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and is the third most common cancer in women worldwide, with 530,000 new cases and 275,00 deaths annually.

  • Some 80 to 90 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa have never had a pelvic exam.

  • More than 85 percent of the global burden of cervical cancer occurs in resource-limited countries, yet the World Health Organization estimates less than 5 percent of these women have access to screening even once in a lifetime.

  • Cervical cancer is four to five times more prevalent among women who are HIV-positive.

  • HPV vaccination offers a promising solution for women in developing nations who do not have access to screenings for cervical cancer, although the cost of the vaccination is a major barrier for many resource-limited countries.

  • Cervical cancer is the No. 1 cancer affecting women in 37 countries in South and Central America, west and southern Africa, and Asia.

  • Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to a woman’s vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, are the culprits in causing most cases of cervical cancer.

  • Most women’s immune systems prevent the HPV virus from turning cancerous. In a small percentage of women, however, the virus survives for years, and, if not detected and prevented, some cells on the surface of the cervix turn into cancer cells.

  • Early cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. However, as the cancer proceeds the following symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer may appear:

    • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause;

    • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have an unpleasant odor; and

    • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.

  • Two main types of cervical cancer:

    • Squamous cell carcinomas—These begin in the thin, flat cells that line the bottom on the cervix called squamous cells. Most patients have this type of cervical cancer.

    • Adenocarcinomas—These occur in the glandular cells that line the cervical canal.

  • Tests and Diagnosis

    • Pap test can detect abnormal cells in the cervix, including cancer cells and cells that show changes that increase the risk for cervical cancer.

    • HPV DNA test involves collecting cells from the cervix for medical laboratory testing. HPV tests may be combined with Pap tests to extend the recommended screening period from three to five years for women between the ages of 30 and 65. For more information, go to the 2012 Cervical Cancer guidelines.

  • Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer

    • A weak immune system—Women who are infected with HIV/AIDS have weaker immune systems and, as a result, are four to five times more likely to get cervical cancer in their lifetimes.

    • Many sexual partners—The greater number of sexual partners—and the higher number of your partner’s sexual partners—the greater a woman’s chance of acquiring HPV.

    • Early sexual activity—Having sex before age 18 increases a woman’s risk of HPV.

    • Other sexually transmitted infections—If a woman has other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS, the higher the chance she also has contracted HPV.

    • Smoking—Smoking cigarettes is more likely to lower the chance of a woman fighting off the HPV infection, and a correlation may exist between smokers who have HPV with a higher likelihood of contracting cervical cancer.

Other Web Resources for Information about Cervical Cancer: