Michigan Association of Health Plans

Late-stage cervical cancer cases are on the rise

This story appeared in NPR. Read more here

A new study finds that late-stage cervical cancer cases are on the rise in the U.S., and some researchers hypothesize that a decrease in screenings among young women could be why more women are being diagnosed with the deadly disease.

While the overall rate of cervical cancer in the U.S. is on the decline, the number of women suffering from advanced stages of the disease — which has a five-year survival rate of 17% — is increasing.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology set out to investigate stage 4 cervical cancer trends in the country by analyzing data from 2001 to 2018. In a study published Thursday in the International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer, they found a 1.3% increase per year in advanced stages of the disease, with the greatest increase taking place among white women in the South aged 40 to 44, among whom cases went up 4.5% annually.

Researchers also found that Black women have an overall higher rate of late-stage cervical cancer, at 1.55 per 100,000, versus 0.92 per 100,000 in white women.

Dr. Alex Francoeur, a fourth year OB-GYN resident at UCLA, said the team’s recent study was born out of a study published last year, which found a 3.39% annual increase in advanced cases among women aged 30 to 34.

“This is a disease that only 17% of patients will live past five years,” Francoeur said. “So, if you’re a 30-year-old who won’t live past their 35th birthday, that’s tragic.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women start getting Pap tests at age 21 and receive a follow-up every three years, depending on their health history. The test screens for precancers, which if detected, can be surgically removed. Cervical cancer detected early enough can have a five-year survival rate of over 90%.

Women should also get a routine human papillomavirus (HPV) test, according to the National Cancer Institute guidelines. The virus is linked to more than 90% of all anal and cervical cancers, as well as a high percentage of other cancers.

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