January has been designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month by the American Cancer Society. Cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer. Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early − in its most curable stage.
Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most cases are found in women younger than 50. It rarely develops in women younger than 20. Many older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. More than 15% of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65. However these cancers rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests to screen for cervical cancer before they were 65.
In the United States, Hispanic women are most likely to get cervical cancer, followed by African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and whites. American Indians and Alaskan natives have the lowest risk of cervical cancer in this country.
For more information about cervical cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.