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    Observance Seeks to Increase Awareness of Cervical Cancer



    Story by Bernard Little 

    Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

    January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, observed to increase recognition and understanding of the disease which claims the lives of approximately 300,000 women worldwide annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
    An estimated 570,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer globally, making it the fourth most common cancer in women, WHO states. The top three cancers diagnosed in women are breast, colorectal and lung.
    The American Cancer Society estimates more than 14,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer this year, and about 4,300 of them will die from the disease.
    Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for American women, but the death rate for the disease has declined with increased use of the Pap test, the American Cancer Society added. The Papanicolaou test, commonly called the Pap test or Pap smear, is a method of cervical screening used to detect potentially precancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix, the lower, narrow end of the uterus connected to the vagina.
    Also, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has contributed to the decrease in cervical cancer’s death rate, according to medical professionals. “Long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Neil T. Phippen, chief, Gynecologic Oncology Service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said that in addition to HPV infection, other risk factors for cervical cancer include “smoking or any use of tobacco/nicotine (including vaping), HIV, prior history of sexual transmitted disease (STD), numerous sexual partners through life with limited condom use, and history of cervical dysplasia (abnormal Pap smears).
    “Ninety-seven (97) percent of cervical cancers are a result of persistent HPV infection,” Phippen continued. “Fortunately, there is a highly-effective vaccine for HPV, meaning there is actually a vaccine that can prevent cancer. Both men and women are eligible for the vaccine between the ages of 11 and 26. For those getting the HPV vaccine prior to their 15th birthday, only a two-shot series is needed whereas for those 15 and above, a three-shot series is needed. Completing the vaccine as early as possible, particularly before becoming sexually active, assures the best protection. However, the vaccine is beneficial at any time during the relevant age range, even if a patient has been diagnosed with the HPV infection previously. Other risk-reducing strategies include avoidance of tobacco/nicotine containing products, limiting number of sexual partners and using condoms during intercourse.”
    Phippen added the most common symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal uterine/vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, bleeding with intercourse, persistent abnormal/malodorous vaginal discharge.”
    “For normal risk women without immune compromise, screening with a Pap smear begins at age 21 and is repeated every three years as long as no abnormalities are detected. At age 30, HPV co-testing can be obtained in conjunction with the Pap smear. When both the Pap smear is normal and the HPV test is negative, the screening interval is extended to every five years. Alternatively, a patient may choose to do a Pap smear alone, in which case the screening interval remains every three years. Current guideline recommend cessation of cervical cancer screening at age 65 only if the patient has no history of high grade cervical dysplasia and the preceding two or three screening test results have been normal,” Phippen explained.
    For women diagnosed with cervical cancer, “treatment depends on many factors, including the size of the tumor, the predicted stage of the cancer, and the patient’s fertility desires,” Phippen continued. “If a person is diagnosed with cervical cancer, [the person] should request a referral to a Gynecologic Oncologist for a thoughtful discussion considering these factors to determine if surgery or chemotherapy [plus] radiation is the best therapy. In general, either surgery or chemotherapy [and] radiation are the two main treatment modalities for cervical cancer,” he added.
    For more information regarding cervical cancer and HPV, visit the CDC websites, and



    Date Taken: 01.19.2022
    Date Posted: 01.19.2022 15:50
    Story ID: 413106
    Location: BETHESDA, MD, US 

    Web Views: 88
    Downloads: 1