More Women at Risk of Dying from Cervical Cancer

By: Cynthia Patton

Cervical cancer hit the news this week in two significant reports, with one finding that more women are at risk of dying from cervical cancer than originally thought.

A new study published this week online in Cancer found women who had their cervix removed or underwent a hysterectomy were never included in previous studies. With them now in the mix, researchers found a 47-percent increased chance of death from cervical cancer among white women, and a 77 percent increase in the risk factor among black women.

“Women with early stage cervical cancer tend to be treated with surgery, while those with late stage cervical cancer are treated with radiation,” said Dr. Robert Edwards, UPMC gynecologist and principle investigator of the Gynecologic Oncology Group for the University of Pittsburgh. “By including both groups, we have a more realistic view of cervical cancer deaths.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer were reported in the United States last year and there were more than 4,000 deaths. These are deaths that could be prevented with two screenings – the human papillomavirus vaccine and routine pap smear tests, Edwards said.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. and has been shown to cause cervical cancer. This vaccine is now recommended for teens and preteens prior to them becoming sexually active. For adult women, it’s the annual pap smear test.

That’s how ESPN sportscaster and ABC-TV “Dancing with the Stars” co-host Erin Andrews discovered that she had cervical cancer.

One day after the new study was released, Andrews revealed her diagnosis. In national news interviews she said she acted quickly and went from diagnosis to surgery, and returned to the NFL sidelines in less than two weeks.

Edwards said having Andrews talk openly about cervical cancer creates a new awareness that he hopes will lead to more women seeking screenings.

“This study tells us we need to do a better job of engaging minorities in cervical cancer screenings,” said Edwards. “There are access and trust issues that need to be addressed so that we can make these screening tests available, and more minority women will actually have them.”

Cervical cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women.