Cervical cancer mortality rates surprisingly high
A new study published in Cancer, a publication of the American Cancer Society, found that cervical cancer mortality rates are likely considerably higher than originally feared. The findings underscore the need for preventative strategies, including the use of single-use medical devices and routine screenings. This article will examine the study before making a case for the importance of single-use vaginal speculums.
A closer look at cervical cancer
Before an explication of the survey findings, it is helpful to take a closer look at what the disease is. Cervical cancer is understood as any malignancy that forms in the cervix. A relatively rare form of the disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there are roughly 12,000 news cases of the disease in the United States every year. The condition can impact women of any age, although women over 30 are statistically at the highest risk.
The CDC explained that although other factors can play a role, cervical cancer is overwhelmingly associated with the presence of the Human Papillomavirus. A very common sexually transmitted infection, there are a number of strains of HPV, with some posing a much higher cancer risk than others: HPV-16 and HPV-18 are primarily associated with cervical cancer, the University of Maryland Medical Center detailed, as well as other forms of the disease such as anal cancer.
Still, as stressed by the CDC, most women who contract HPV won't develop cancer. The source explained that HPV usually resolves on its own, producing no symptoms. Furthermore, it is important to note that a majority of sexually active adults will contract one or more strains of HPV throughout their lives, simply due to its ubiquity.
Given the fact that HPV is so common and often asymptomatic, women are encouraged to receive regular pap smears, which screen for the presence of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells, the CDC explained. All young women of 21 and over are strongly encouraged to receive routine pap smears.
Concerning new study finds much higher cervical cancer mortality rates
Researchers have found that cervical cancer mortality rates are much higher than once believed. Black women, in particular, are at a much higher risk – the death rate among this demographic was found to be a staggering 77 percent higher than original estimates CNN explained, reporting on the findings of the study. White women are also at a considerably higher risk when compared with previous estimates: The rate was found to be 47 percent higher – a notable increase but a marked disparity when compared with black women with the disease.
In fact, as explained by CNN, while racial disparities in cervical cancer mortality rates were already understood to exist, the study found that the difference is actually much more pronounced – previous studies undervalued the problem by around 44 percent.
So why the dramatic difference in findings? Researchers arrived at the new figures by including women who has undergone hysterectomies in their study – a group that had previously been neglected from research into cervical cancer.
While the researchers were quick to stress that they are unable to offer definitive reasons for the racial disparities – that is beyond the purview of the study itself – there some systemic factors that likely play a role. CNN interviewed Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center based gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Marcela del Carmen, who elaborated on this issue.
"Racial disparity may be explained by lack of access or limited access to cervical cancer screening programs among black women when compared to whites," she explained. "This gap and disparity need to be addressed with initiatives focusing on better access to prevention or screening programs, better access to HPV vaccination programs and improved access and adherence to standard of care treatment for cervical cancer."
Single use tools can lower risk
Given the findings of the study, it is more crucial than ever for health care facilities to promote cervical cancer awareness. This means disseminating information about the necessity of routine pap smears and HPV vaccinations, which can be given to both males and females, the University of Maryland Medical Center noted.
Another important strategy that health care facilities can employ is to utilize single-use medical tools, and especially vaginal speculums when conducting pelvic exams. Research has indicated that when reusable medical tools are used, common disinfection strategies are not always effective at killing dangerous strains of HPV. This means that there is a risk of patients contracting HPV from improperly cleaned medical tools, increasing their risk of cervical cancer and other cancers too. Single-use tools, such as the range available from OBP Medical, eliminate this threat, as a new tool is used on a patient each time and then safely disposed of.
To learn more about the range of single-use vaginal speculums from OBP Medical and to request a free sample, click here.