If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.

The American Cancer Society estimated that 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer would be diagnosed in 2021, and that 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer in the United States alone.

Routine cancer screening is critical. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap smear which is the screening test for cervical cancer. The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier to treat and consequently the better the outcome. Since the beginning of the pandemic, and up until recently, patients have avoided going to the doctor’s office out of fear - many medical offices were closed and some only doing telehealth.

In April 2021, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science published one study showing that the number of pap smears declined by 83% in comparison to February 2020, a month prior to the announcement of the global pandemic outbreak.

Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44 with the average age at diagnosis being 50. The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is the virus called the Human Papillomavirus.

The USPSTF recommends starting screening for cervical cancer at age 21. Women between the ages of 21 to 29, should get a pap done every 3 years with cervical cytology alone. Women between the ages of 30 to 65 years, should get a screening every 3 years with cervical cytology alone, and every 5 years with high-risk human papillomavirus testing alone or pap with HPV combined as recommended by the USPSTF.

Women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix, and no history of a high-grade precancerous lesions or cervical cancer can stop screening.

Symptoms for Cervical Cancer do not appear until the late stage including vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and unusual vaginal discharge.

It is essential for women to have an annual well-woman visit. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.

References: American Cancer Society | USPSTF | IQYIA

Anele Manfredini, MD