Cervical cancer is a disease of the cervix.1 The disease was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, but thanks to regular Pap smear screening, the death rate has dropped considerably.2 In 2018, about 13,240 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed.2 About 4,250 women will die from cervical cancer in 2019.1
Cervical cancer is mostly caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI), with about 80 percent of sexually active people contracting it at some point in their lives.2
Most HPV infections are transient and asymptomatic, causing no symptoms. More than 90% of new HPV infections, including those caused by high-risk HPV types, clear or become undetectable within 2 years, and clearance usually occurs in the first 18 months after infection. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV is the most important risk factor for HPV-related diseases, including pre-cancer and invasive cervical cancer.
Depending upon diagnosis and stage, cervical cancer may be treated with surgery (early detection), radiation therapy (after surgery when there is a high risk of relapse) or chemotherapy (when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body).
How do I get Screened?
To screen for cervical cancer, your healthcare provider may:
- Take a sample of cells from the cervix, known as Pap test or Pap smear, to look for changes that could lead to cancer
- Test for HPV using the cells already taken during the Pap test
- For women 25 and older, test Pap and HPV together, called co-testing
- Use Pap-dependent HPV
Pap-dependent HPV is a revolutionary approach to cervical cancer screening, available exclusively through GenPath Women’s Health.
To perform Pap-dependent HPV, your healthcare provider will collect a Pap test, which is a simple, safe, effective, and inexpensive method for screening pre-cancerous and invasive cancerous conditions in the cervix. It is considered by many to be the best cancer-screening test available.
Then, using liquid-based Pap technology, the cells are sent directly to the testing laboratory where automated instruments prepare a higher-quality slide. And then, an automated microscope reads the slide and flags the most abnormal cells for review by a cytopathologist.
The program will:
- Look at your Pap results
- Determine the most appropriate HPV test, based on the cytology or Pap results
What if I Have a Positive High-Risk Result?
A positive result for high-risk HPV indicates that you may be at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. In certain cases, your healthcare provider may want to perform a procedure called a colposcopy, in which the cervix and vagina are examined using an instrument similar to a lighted magnifying glass.
Currently there is no treatment for HPV. However, cervical lesions may be removed by a simple surgical procedure and genital warts can be effectively treated with various wart medications.
If abnormal cells are detected at an early stage, treatment most often keeps them from developing into cancer. An abnormal Pap result does not mean that cervical cancer is present. Abnormal results can come from an infection or from pre-cancerous cells that, if left untreated, could progress to cancer.
- The American Cancer Society.
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed May 23, 2019.
- The American Cancer Society.
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/cervical-cancer-risk-factors.html. Accessed May 23, 2019.
- Molano, M., Van den Brule, A., Plummer, M., et al. Determinants of clearance of human papillomavirus infections in Colombian women with normal cytology: A population-based, 5-year follow-up study. Am J Epidemiol2003;158(5):486–94. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg171.