January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. The good news: cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer, thanks to increased screening with the Pap test. The screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops, and it can detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when the disease is most curable.
“Cervical cancer is usually a slow process that starts with abnormal changes known as dysplasia, and eventually cancer cells begin to form and spread more deeply into the tissue of the cervix and surrounding areas,” said Daniel Gottschall, MD, OBGYN, Chief Clinical Officer, St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “There are usually no symptoms, but thanks largely to the increased use of the Pap test, the cervical cancer death rate has declined by more than 50 percent over the last 40 years.”