Health

Doctors: Risk Of Death From Cervical Cancer Higher Than We Thought

Time to schedule that annual check-up.

Cervical cancer is already a very scary diagnosis, but doctors have bad news: It’s worse than they originally thought.

According to a study published in the journal Cancer, cervical cancer is far more deadly than previously realized. On top of that, black women are twice as likely as white women to die from it.

According to the study, death rates from cervical cancer have been “grossly underestimated.” The difference in death rates between women of color and white women is also far greater than scientists knew, according to an editorial that accompanied the study by gynecological oncologists Heather J. Dalton, M.D., and John H. Farley, M.D.

New data reveals that the mortality rate for cervical cancer was 48 percent higher (!!!) than previously believed for white women. Among women of color, the rate was 76 percent higher—meaning black women in America are dying of cervical cancer at the same rate women in developing countries are dying. Not normal. Not good.

According to the authors of the study, a few reasons for this disparity have already been discovered in earlier studies. These show that cervical cancer is frequently found later and treated less effectively in women of color as opposed to white women.

Despite the fact that cervical cancer kills about 4,000 women in the U.S. every year, nearly 93 percent of cervical cancers are preventable. The HPV shot has been instrumental in reducing cases of cervical cancer, but not enough women are opting for it.

According to the editorial by Drs. Dalton and Farley, “The impact of vaccination cannot be underestimated.” This is especially important since in 2014, only 40 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 were fully vaccinated against HPV.

A routine pap smear is also crucial in detecting early signs of HPV and cervical cancer. Pap tests detect irregular cells that may later become cancerous, and can be treated right away. If you haven’t had a pap smear lately, we’re sorry, but it’s time to call your OB-GYN and get one set up.

If you’re older than 65, however, you probably don’t need one as long as you’ve had regular screenings previously and are not at high risk. If you have issues with your immune system or a family history of gynecological cancers, however, you should talk to your doctor.

“Deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented, in so many cases, by early detection through Pap smears and regular gynecological visits,” says Consumer Reports’ medical director, Orly Avitzur, M.D. “And HPV-related cervical cancer can be entirely prevented by getting the vaccine at a young age.”