Cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer in women worldwide and is a leading cause of cancer-related death in women in underdeveloped countries.
Worldwide, about 500,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. Routine screening has decreased the incidence of invasive cervical cancer in the United States.
According to Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry, cervical cancer is the eighth most common cancer in Georgia women. Every year, more than 430 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed, and almost 130 women die from this disease.
The risk of developing cervical cancer starts increasing around age 30. Women in rural Georgia are more likely to develop late-stage cervical cancer than women living in urban areas. Deaths due to cervical cancer are highest among women ages 80 and older. Black, Hispanic and American Indian women have higher death rates from this disease than white women.
Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Incidence and mortality rates in the U.S. have decreased markedly over the last several decades, largely because of Pap tests, which can detect the disease in its earliest, most curable stages.
Cervical cancer is detected through a Pap smear and pelvic examination. If any abnormalities are found on the Pap test, additional testing will need to be done to determine whether cervical cancer is present. The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin having annual Pap smears three years after becoming sexually active and no later than age 21. After 30, women who have had three consecutive normal tests should get screened every two or three years.
Regular Pap smears should be performed during and after menopause. At age 70, women who have not had any abnormal Pap tests in the preceding 10 years can stop cervical cancer screening.
Women who do not have insurance or are unable to pay for cervical cancer screening may be eligible for low- or no-cost screening at their local health department. For more information about cervical cancer, call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345 or visit their Web site at www.cancer.org.