Cervical Cancer Awareness: Let’s Talk Screening, Prevention

Cervical Cancer Awareness

As we head into January, the Adams County Regional Medical Center would like to take this opportunity to highlight Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer mortality rates have fallen drastically since the 1970s when it was women's leading cause of death. Yet, despite this decline, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 14,280 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2021. So, while we should celebrate how far we've come, we must continue to make strides in reducing cervical cancer cases in the coming years.

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (womb). The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which abnormal cells begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Over time, if not destroyed or removed, the abnormal cells may become cancer cells and grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and surrounding areas.

The American Cancer Society reports that women between 35 and 44 are more frequently diagnosed with cervical cancer, but 20% of cases are found in women over 65.

The good news is that occurrence and death rates from cervical cancer have dropped significantly due to a two-pronged preventive approach that includes screening for the disease and vaccination against the virus that causes it.

Much work remains to be done to defeat cervical cancer, and that battle starts with you and your well-woman exams. Here are the four facts you need to know about cervical cancer:

  1. Cervical cancer has viral origins. Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, almost 80 percent of women contract HPV by age 50, but most do not develop cervical cancer. Only a few of the many types of HPV lead to the disease. It is thought cervical cells mutate into cancerous cells due to HPV.
  2. Cervical cancer can take years to develop and often does not cause symptoms until advanced. Signs of the disease include abnormal bleeding and spotting, unusual vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and discomfort during sex.
  3. HPV vaccination and screening can prevent up to 93 percent of cervical cancers. This helps prevent high-risk HPV that leads to cervical cancer and low-risk types that cause genital warts. The CDC recommends two doses for preteens starting at age 11 or 12 for the best immune response. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are under 26 and have not received the vaccine.
  4. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you might still need Pap smears even if you've had a partial or complete hysterectomy. People with no uterus but still have a cervix are still at risk. Those with a total hysterectomy due to cancer should continue screenings to check for reoccurrence.

Scheduling a pelvic exam that includes a cervical cancer screening is one of the most important steps you can take for your health. 

Follow this screening schedule recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:

  • Age 21 to 30 – Schedule exams every three years.
  • Age 30 to 65 – Continue following the every-three-year schedule for Pap tests or, if you prefer to go longer between screenings, have a combination Pap test and human papillomavirus test every five years.
  • Age 65 and older – If at least three Pap tests in the past decade have shown no signs of cervical cancer, you can stop having the test at 65.

To learn more about cervical cancer or schedule your screening, exam, and vaccination, please visit acrmc.com/clinics

About Adams County Regional Medical Center

Adams County Regional Medical Center is a 25-bed critical access hospital located near Seaman, Ohio, just 60 miles east of Cincinnati. Adams County Regional Medical Center is a viable and growing state-of-the-art health care facility meeting the needs of Adams County and the surrounding communities, providing a full range of services, including inpatient and outpatient amenities. Adams County Regional Medical Center is Joint Commission certified, focusing on the importance of patient care and organized functions that are essential to providing safe, high-quality care.