Posts tagged ‘cervical cancer’
One in a series of articles about how to reduce the risk of cancer…
The adage “you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken” rings particularly true for cancers, where early detection means more effective treatments and better survival odds.
However, too many Americans neglect to get these potentially lifesaving tests. According to a 2012 Frontiers in Oncology study surveying more than 170,000 U.S. participants, aside from colorectal cancer screening, Americans fell short of meeting the screening goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 initiative.
The researchers also analyzed a subset of participants who are cancer survivors. Although the survivors had better overall adherence to getting screened regularly, even they did not meet Healthy People 2010 goals for cervical cancer screening.
Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Chair and Professor of the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research, said Americans should do a better job of getting screened.
“It is the easiest way to catch cancer in its earliest stages, when it is the most curable,” Stein said.
For example, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with stage I colorectal cancer is 74%, whereas by stage IV the odds drop to a dismal 6%. This drastic decline is also seen in many other cancers.
With this in mind, it should be a no-brainer for everyone to get screened in accordance to current recommended guidelines. According to the American Cancer Society, this includes: Continue reading “To fight cancer, get screened – regularly” »
Oprah Winfrey says that during her interview with Lance Armstrong, to be aired in two parts starting Thursday, he admitted to doping during his cycling career. That detail is feeding speculation among the public and the media about whether those doping activities may have contributed to his diagnosis of testicular cancer.
So far, it’s not possible to give a definitive answer to that question. The known connection between testicular cancer and common doping regimens is tenuous at best.
Further, although there’s been plenty of speculation about how Armstrong doped, there hasn’t been confirmation about what substances he used. The amounts and the duration of use – either before or after his cancer diagnosis and treatment – are also unconfirmed.
This is what’s currently known. Armstrong was diagnosed in 1996, at the age of 25, with advanced stage testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs, abdomen and brain. Testicular cancer is one of the most curable types of cancer, with a 95 percent survival rate if caught in an early stage when it’s confined to a testicle. It has an 80 percent survival rate if caught in more advanced stages, when it has spread to other organs. Continue reading “Can doping increase risk of cancer? Yes. Testicular cancer? Unknown.” »
Overall, cancer death rates in the U.S. are falling among men, women and children – and across all major ethnic groups. That’s the broad message from the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.
Then the numbers become more nuanced. Overall cancer incidence rates are also falling – but only for men; for women, they’re holding steady, and for children, they’ve ticked up. Similarly, while death rates for most common cancer sites – lung, colon and rectum, breast (for women) and prostate – are down, death rates are up for melanoma (among men) and for liver, pancreatic and uterine cancers.
“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer,” John R. Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement. “The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections. We must face these hurdles head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control cancer.”
Recommendations about cancer screenings are always evolving, as physicians and researchers learn more about how the disease develops and are able to analyze data from an ever-growing population of patients. The pace of change, though, can be confusing to both physicians and patients, with some physicians slow to adopt crucial recommendations.
This problem was highlighted in a Dec. 3 report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about screening for cervical cancer. The good news is that younger women are getting pap smears as recommended. The bad news is that 58.7 percent of women over 30 who had a hysterectomy – in which the woman’s uterus and uterine cervix are removed – are still getting regular pap smears despite recommendations that they don’t need to be tested.
Though the screenings don’t harm the women, they also don’t help. Such tests amount to a waste of precious health-care dollars. In 2012, new recommendations for cervical cancer screening were issued by three organizations – the U.S. Preventive Medicine Task Force, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Cancer Society.
Vaccine research has been heralded as a bright spot in 2012′s medical advances against cancer and related diseases – with potential for yielding even more progress in 2013. But although many people have experienced getting vaccinated, not everyone understands how the shots work to protect them against disease.
So here’s a primer on how vaccines work with the immune system to keep people healthy:
For starters, vaccines fall into two main categories – prevention of disease and treatment of disease – and the immune system is made up of white blood cells, or leukocytes.
There are many types of leukocytes, but most cancer vaccines work with a type known as lymphocytes. Lymphocytes come in two main versions: Continue reading “How cancer vaccines work – and what it means for the future” »
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new guidelines for cervical cancer screening that may make it easier for more women to keep on top of their health. Instead of getting a Pap smear every year, many women may be able to go three years — and sometimes up to five years — between cervical cancer screenings.
The task force already had recommended that women ages 21 to 65 receive a Pap test every three years. New guidelines indicate that women ages 30 to 65 can safely go five years between screenings if they receive a test for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, in addition to the Pap test.
The recommendations grew out of research that linked infection with HPV to the development of cervical cancer. There are many strains of the virus, but two — HPV16 and HPV18 — are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases.
City of Hope’s Sharon Wilczynski, M.D., Ph.D., chief of anatomic pathology, conducted extensive research into HPV that helped establish its link to cervical cancer. She says that most women and men are infected by HPV at some point in their lives, but they clear the virus from the body relatively quickly. Some women, though, develop a persistent infection that, over time, can lead to cervical cancer.
HPV research led to the development of a way to test for infection and a vaccine, which led to better ways for women managing their health. With HPV also being linked to a rise in mouth and throat cancers, additional research may improve outcomes in all HPV-related cancers.
The human papillomavirus, or HPV, has gotten a lot of attention because of its association with cervical cancer — but it also can infect the throat and mouth and cause oral cancers. Recent research suggests it causes more of these oral cancers than experts previously thought.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that about 7 percent of men and women between ages 14 and 69 had HPV in the mouth, and oral infection is nearly three times as common in men as in women. (About one in every 10 men in the study had it).
Over the past decade, cases of mouth and throat cancers related to HPV have grown by more than 4 percent ever year, and the majority are in the throat (base of tongue and tonsils) — something that might be linked to changes in sexual practices like oral sex, according to the American Cancer Society. Whatever the cause, specialists like City of Hope’s Joel Epstein, D.M.D., M.S.D., director of the Division of Oral Medicine, are seeing the result in their clinics.
HPV-related cancers of the mouth and throat — primarily the oropharynx — are on the rise while the overall incidence rate of cancers is declining. Smoking is the other major factor that contributes to mouth and orophayrnx cancers, but those HPV-unrelated cases have been on a steady decline.
Over 90 percent of HPV-related oropharyx cancers are due to the HPV 16 strain of the virus, which is also a major virus strain in cervical cancers. The two HPV vaccines currently approved for girls and young women inoculate against HPV 16, among other strains.
Last October, an advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended HPV vaccination for young boys, similar to the recommendations they had provided for young girls earlier. [The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a similar recommendation this week.]
From an epidemiological perspective, it makes sense to vaccinate the population during their childhood, but there are cost issues that need to be considered as well. We don’t know if HPV infection is an epidemic in the starting stages or if HPV-related cancers will remain relatively rare in comparison to other cancers.
HPV-related oropharynx cancers started rising in 1985, he notes, and HPV has a long incubation period before leading to cervical, anal or head and neck cancers. Only a portion of infected people who do not clear the virus may be at risk for cancers. That sounds very similar, he says, to another sexually transmitted virus that the general public is familiar with: human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
About 40,250 Americans will be diagnosed this year with some form of cancer in the mouth or throat, according to the American Cancer Society. The death rate is continuing to drop, with about 7,850 deaths attributed to the disease.
Even though many doctors test for human papillomavirus, or HPV, as part of the routine women’s exams they provide, the U.S. Preventive Services said on Monday that there’s insufficient evidence to recommend these tests for woman age 30 or older. The HPV test checks whether a woman is carrying risky forms of the virus that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
The panel indicated that younger women are frequently positive for HPV and may undergo invasive procedures that remove cervical tissue. These procedures can potentially cause trouble with child-bearing later. Evidence shows that Pap tests are still best for finding cervical cancer.
But the questions obscure an important issue, says Mark Wakabayashi, M.D., M.P.H., chief of gynecologic oncology at City of Hope.
As he told U.S.News.com, many women are getting no tests at all, especially the underserved. “About half of all cervical cancers are diagnosed in women who have had no screening, or who have not had a screening in the previous five years,” he said.
National experts agree that women should have their first Pap smear at the age of 21, not earlier. More information is available online about who should be tested and how often.
You can also read a Q&A with City of Hope pathologist Sharon Wilczynski, M.D., Ph.D., to learn more about HPV and its link to cervical cancer.