Nadim Bou Zgheib, MD, FACOG
Cervical cancer is the third most common gynecologic malignancy and it is estimated that around 12,000 new cases are diagnosed annually and nearly 4000 patients die from this disease in the U.S. alone. Worldwide cervical cancer represents a bigger healthcare problem and is considered the fourth most common malignancy in women.
Maybe the most important characteristic of cervical cancer is the fact that the majority of the cases are caused by a viral infection with Human Papilloma Virus or HPV, which is a sexually transmitted infection. It is estimated that around 6.2 million persons are newly infected every year and by the age of 40 nearly 80% of women have been exposed to HPV. The medical community has been very interested in the possibility of eradication of this disease by preventing an HPV infection. The last decade has witnessed the emergence of HPV vaccine recommended nowadays for prevention from an HPV infection for girls aged between 9 and 26 as well as boys aged between 11 and 26 years.
Multiple risk factors for cervical cancer have been identified, and these include the risk of chronic exposure to HPV with multiple sexual partners, early age of first sexual activity, and the ability of the body to fight such an infection which in case of an immunosuppression an HPV infection is more likely to persist and cause cervical cancer. Another important risk factor found to be associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer is smoking.
Although most HPV infections cause no symptoms, it is most likely diagnosed during a routine gynecological exam and pap smear. An HPV infection if persistent first causes a premalignant lesion on the cervix and if untreated this could progress into cancer. If treated an HPV infection is unlikely to cause cervical cancer, thus the importance of annual gynecological exams.
Once diagnosed, cervical cancer treatment varies with the extent of the disease and its spread. In cases where the cancer is confined to the cervix a surgical treatment alone could lead to a cure, however in more advanced situations, additional therapy with chemotherapy and radiation therapy might be required.
Many advances have been made in order to better individualize the surgical treatment of cervical cancer, from a fertility sparing approach to a more radical hysterectomy; these surgical treatments could be performed nowadays with minimally invasive techniques.
The best prevention for cervical cancer could be achieved by a routine regular visits to a gynecologist and the appropriate vaccination against HPV. With increased awareness and adequate actions this disease could be eradicated for the future generations.
To arrange for your cervical cancer screening, call 304-691-1400.