Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second-most common type of cancer that strikes women -behind only breast cancer.
While the incidence of cases has improved in South Carolina, Dr. Lisa Spiryda, OB-GYN, says the state could do better. “Just a few years ago we were ninth in incidence in mortality and now we brought it down to fourteenth in incidence in mortality so a lot of the outreach programs and encouraging women -particularly in rural areas, have brought women in for PAP tests that haven’t gotten them in the past. But fourteenth really isn’t good enough.”
The American Cancer Society tells us that cervical cancer kills 288,000 women worldwide. Spiryda says that one of the goals is to encourage women of all ethnicities to see their doctor for exams. “We do know that minority populations, in particular African Americans and Hispanics continue to have very high rates of incidence of cervical cancers compared to Caucasian population. Specifically it’s a 30 to 40 percent higher incidence, and over 50 percent higher mortality in these populations. This is why it’s really important to encourage women of all ethnicities to be up to date on their PAP test and to see a doctor for their pelvic exams.”
(Dr. Spiryda on cervical cancer MP3 6:47) Dr. Lisa Spiryda on Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is the only cancer with a single known cause, the human papillomavirus, as explained by Dr. Lisa Spiryda. “We do know that cervical cancer, it’s one of the cancers where we do have a specific agent, and it’s human papillomavirus, HPV as you probably have heard on TV advertisements. HPV is the known agent of not only cervical cancer, but the pre-cancer cells or dysplasia. Additionally, it’s been linked to genital warts. So anybody who’s been exposed to HPV is at risk for developing cervical cancer. It’s important to know that not all women who are exposed to HPV will get cervical cancer.”
Spiryda says that by combining the HPV and Pap tests, the ability to identify women at risk for cervical cancer is increased to virtually 100 percent. Women age 30 and older are most at risk of developing the disease. “Once you’re in your 20’s and 30’s, the recommendations are to have screening every one to two years. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be seeing your doctor. Because sometimes there’s other risk factors that you have and you might need to have an annual PAP test. Once you’re 30, what the guidelines are is that you continue to have your PAP test every one to two years. Sometimes it can be spread out every three years. A new test that has been now advocated, is HPV testing, in particular high risk HPV testing.”
There is evidence that other factors may increase the risk of cervical cancer when combined with HPV, such as smoking and illnesses that reduce the body’s ability to fight off infections.
For more information, visit www.theHPVtest.com