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Late stage cervical cancer is still on the rise despite ways to prevent detect and treat it early


Cervical cancer is usually caused by human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that infects almost all sexually active men and women with the virus at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite a widely available vaccine that prevents most types of HPV and available screening that allows for early detection and treatment, rates of advanced cervical cancer have risen over the past two decades, according to a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles .

The CDC reports that 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the US each year, costing 4,000 lives each year. Although advanced cervical cancer is a rare form of this disease, it has a five-year survival rate of only 17%.

UCLA researchers analyzed data from 2001 to 2018 using the United States Cancer Statistics program and showed that late-stage cervical cancer is more common in Black and Hispanic women than in their white peers. However, white women have seen the steepest annual increases in rates of this advanced cancer, and the lowest rates of HPV vaccination have been found among white teenagers.

In particular, white women aged 40-44 in the South have the highest increase in advanced cervical cancer rates (4.5%) per year and were also found to be significantly less likely to have timely cervical cancer screening.

dr Jessica Shepherd, Verywell Health’s board-certified OBGYN and chief medical officer, told ABC News these results were “a little bit shocking.” Noting the need for more cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccinations, she said men and women share a responsibility to get vaccinated and stop the spread of HPV.

“I think for women, you know, we’re all in this together. Our goal really should be to empower every woman’s health,” Shepherd said.

Two doses of the HPV vaccine six to 12 months apart can be given to children as young as 9 years old, well before they encounter the virus, according to the CDC. Both safe and effective HPV vaccines were first used in the United States in 2006. Since then, infections and HPV types that cause genital warts and cancer have decreased by 88%, according to the CDC.

“Men are actually going to play a very, very big role in how this virus is transmitted and transmitted sexually. So I think they have a very big role in the vaccination process to reduce it across the board,” Shepherd said.

Women should have cervical cancer screening using a Pap test, which is done in a clinical setting at routine intervals beginning at age 21 and can be coupled with HPV testing, the CDC said.

Shepherd added, “I believe this is a moment when there should be a call to action to really advance the importance of regular screening and testing.”

Jade A. Cobern, MD, Board Qualified Pediatrics and MPH candidate, is part of the ABC News Medical Unit and based at Johns Hopkins for general preventive medicine.

Copyright © 2022 ABC, Inc. Late-stage cervical cancer is still on the rise, despite ways to prevent, detect, and treat it early

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.