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New Cervical Cancer Data Shows Downward Trend, But Cases Still High Among Older Women and Some Hispanics (dateline April 22, 2003)

While the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased in the United States as a whole, Hispanic women over 30 years of age are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease compared to non-Hispanic women. In addition, the rate of cervical cancer remains relatively high among non-Hispanic women over 50 years of age. This information comes from a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which analyzed data for Hispanic and non-Hispanic women between 1992 to 1999. The researchers say that increased use of Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer can lead to fewer cases.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2002, approximately 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed and approximately 4,100 women will die of the disease. When detected early, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is approximately 91%. If cervical cancer is detected before it has invaded any surrounding tissues, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.

According to the CDC report, between 1992 and 1999, a total of 14,759 invasive cervical cancer cases were diagnosed. Fifty-three percent of the cases were localized (i.e., confined to the cervical region), while 40% were in advanced stages (i.e., had spread outside the cervix to other organs) and 7% were not staged. Of 14,524 invasive cervical cancer cases among ethnically identified women, 3,166 (or 22%) were among Hispanic women, and 11,358 (or 78%) were among non-Hispanic women.

During the study period, 16.9 per 100,000 Hispanic women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 8.9 per 100,000 non-Hispanic women were diagnosed with the disease. Overall, there was a decline in the number of cervical cancer cases diagnosed in the United States between 1992 through 1999 (a 4.4% decline in Hispanic women and 2.0% decline in non-Hispanic women). Between 1973-1999, the number of cases and deaths from cervical cancer decreased around 50% in the United States.

The report concludes that while the incidence of cervical cancer is declining, the rates remain relatively high for Hispanic women more than 30 years of age as well as for non-Hispanic women more than 50 years of age. Women 50 years of age and older were also found to be more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer.

The increased use of cervical cancer screening with the Pap smear can help detect cervical tissue changes in early stages when the chances for a favorable outcome are high. Data from the 1998 National Health Interview showed that 80% of non-Hispanic white women had received Pap smears within the past three years, while 83% of non-Hispanic black women and 74% of Hispanic women underwent screening. The researchers suggested that factors such as older age, low education, low household income, and lack of health insurance may prevent some older Hispanic women from receiving regular Pap smears.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin receiving yearly Pap smears and pelvic examinations at age 18 or when they become sexually active, whichever occurs earlier. Some physicians will not perform a Pap smear each year if a woman has had three negative (normal) Pap smears in the course of three years. However, a yearly pelvic exam should be continued even if Pap smears are not given each year.

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