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Cervical Health Awareness

By: Alaap Anklesaria, MS HCM

January was Cervical Health Awareness Month, which was designated by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC). As we join the nation in creating awareness about cervical health, we wanted to share with our readers about Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Cervical Health Awareness Month was initiated to spread awareness among people, especially women from human papillomavirus (HPV) and Cervical Cancer. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells and tissues of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap Smear test (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

While HPV is a very common virus, most women with HPV never develop cervical cancer. This means that other risk factors such as genetic makeup, environment or lifestyle choices also determine whether you’ll develop cervical cancer. When exposed to HPV, a woman’s immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.

About 79 million Americans have HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) every year in the US, nearly 12,000 women are diagnosed and more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer. Every year, approximately 19,400 women and 12,100 men are affected by cancers caused by HPV. In addition HPV also causes other conditions and cancers. What’s quite surprising is that many people with HPV are not aware that they are infected.

It is essential to understand that cervical cancer when detected at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer is 91%. About 46% of women with cervical cancer are diagnosed at an early stage. If cervical cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 57%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 17%.

Since January was Cervical Health Awareness Month the question you might have in your mind is how to diagnose cervical cancer at an early stage. Roughly 40% of the cervical cancer are reported to be false-negatives and thus for both monitoring and treatment, a second opinion on the provided diagnosis would help improve patient diagnosis outcomes for children.

Alaap Anklesaria is an intern with Xpertcare, an online medical second opinion service for pediatric patients.