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Fewer cervical cancer deaths linked to increased screenings, vaccine

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Posted at 9:18 AM, Jan 21, 2022

This article is the part of a monthly series of stories focused on cancer issues. Denver7 is proud to partner with the American Cancer Society, Cancer Support Community, Colorado Cancer Coalition and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HealthONE to bring you these stories, tips and resources.

DENVER — Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test.

Cervical cancer occurs when cancer cells appear in the cervix, the connection between the uterus and vagina. The two most common types of cervical cancer are squamous cell, which occurs in the cells that line the cervix, and adenocarcinoma, which occurs in the cells that make mucus and other fluids. Pap tests can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early − when it's small and easier to cure. The American Cancer Society recommends that routine Pap smear tests begin at age 21 years old and be repeated every few years.

In recent years, the HPV test has been approved as another screening test for cervical cancer since almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). The HPV test looks for infection by high-risk types of HPV that are more likely to cause pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. The HPV test can be used alone (primary HPV test) or at the same time as the Pap test (called a co-test).

Additionally, a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available for girls and women between 9 and 26 years old, which may help reduce the risk for developing cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer risk factors
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Having an HPV infection
  • Early sexual activity
  • Having sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Many sexual partners
  • Smoking
  • A weakened immune system
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

Women should talk with their doctors to discuss their risk factors. For more information on these and other risk factors is available from the American Cancer Society.

Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
Similar to many other cancers, the earliest stages of cervical cancer may not produce any symptoms. This is why receiving screening tests as a part of your women’s care are so important.

However, symptoms of cervical cancer may come in the form of:

  • Abnormal bleeding, especially after intercourse
  • Discharge that is watery or bloody, sometimes heavy and foul smelling
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Advanced care for cervical cancer

Treatment options for gynecologic cancer
Your team of doctors, nurses, surgeons and healthcare professionals will work together to create an individualized treatment plan to fit your unique needs. This may include:

Robotic surgery for gynecologic cancer treatment
The gynecologic oncology program at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute features a highly advanced surgical robot for appropriate cases.

Robotic surgery is designed to provide surgeons with enhanced capabilities, including high-definition 3D vision, a magnified view and better control. This advanced technology allows the doctors to perform complex procedures through just a few tiny openings, resulting in:

  • Faster recovery
  • Less blood loss and transfusions
  • Less pain
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less scarring
  • Quicker return to normal activities

Consult with your doctor to determine your eligibility for robotic surgery.

Support for cervical cancer patients & caregivers
There are many resources available to cervical cancer patients and their caregivers. You can learn more through the Cancer Support Community.

There are also many support groups available in Colorado for those who have ovarian, cervical and other gynecological cancers.

You can also learn more through the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute’s askSARAH helpline. Specially trained nurses are available 24/7, and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at 303-253-3225 or chat online at askSARAHnow.

Events happening in January
7th Annual Arts and Wellness Cervical Cancer/HPV Prevention Awareness Fundraiser
Jan. 23, 2021 - 7 p.m.
Virtual, click here to register