On Thursday, January 11, 2018, Ironwood Gynecological Oncologist Mario J. Pineda, MD, PhD and Radiation Oncologist E. Eric Olyejar, MD appeared on ABC‘s Sonoran Living to discuss Cervical Cancer. January is Cervical Cancer Month so our doctors took this opportunity to explain how to prevent this disease.
Cervical cancer is a malignant growth that starts in the cervix and is the fourth leading cause of cancer among women. The cervix is the opening of uterus by which a baby passes into the birth canal. In the United States almost 13,000 women are diagnosed and about 4,000 women will die of cervical cancer annually. The majority of women with cervical cancer are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, but older women can get cervical cancer as well.
There are many risk factors for cervical cancer, but the most important one is infection with the HPV virus. Infection with HPV 16 or 18 is associated with 70% of all cervical cancers. Risk factors for HPV infection are sexual activity at a young age, multiple sexual partners, HIV infection, and immunosuppression (for example organ transplant patients). A vaccine against HPV infection is available and often recommended for adolescent girls before their first sexual encounter. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include DES exposure in utero, multiple births, cigarette smoking, and long term oral contraceptive use.
Cervical cancer typically develops slowly over time. Before the cells become cancer they undergo detectable changes including dysplasia. Screening with a PAP smear and HPV testing can detect infection and or these changes, allowing for minimally invasive treatment before a cancer is formed. The vast majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a PAP smear in seven years or more. It is thought that if every woman had regular screening exams that we would diagnose very few cases of cervical cancer or not even at all! Most women do not develop signs of cervical cancer until it is fairly advanced. Vaginal bleeding between periods, heavy periods, and continuous periods can be some of the symptoms of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is staged I-IV (like most cancer) based on tumor size or invasion, lymph node involvement, or the presence or absence of metastasis. Early stage cervical cancers (Stage I and early Stage II) can be treated with surgery with our without radiation. More advance cancers (late Stage II and Stage III) are treated with radiation and chemotherapy with or without surgery. Stage IV cervical cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy alone.
To learn more about cervical cancer treatment options contact Ironwood Cancer and Research Centers by visiting http://ironwoodcrc.com/ or calling 480-821-2838.