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Treating cervical cancer starts with screening Special To The Star-news | Sat, Mar 12 2011 12:00 PM

Cervical cancer is cancer that forms in the tissue of the cervix, and is most often caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death in females in the U.S. Fortunately, incidence and mortality rates have decreased by approximately 50 percent over the past 30 years. While the threat of this disease has diminished thanks to effective screening tests, cervical cancer is still a serious risk to a woman's health. Read on to learn more about this type of cancer and find out what UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay is doing to help prevent it in our community.

Cervical cancer is one of only two cancers that can be prevented through regular screening. While screening can help detect many types of cancer, the ACS reports that only cervical and colorectal cancers can actually be prevented through their respective screening tests. The most common screening test used for cervical cancer is the Pap test, which can detect precancerous and cancerous cellular changes. Annual screening for this disease is effective due to the slow pace at which many precancers develop, allowing time for women to be treated early, often before cancer even develops. Most doctors agree that early detection tests like the Pap test save thousands of lives each year and greatly improve the chances for successful treatment.

UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay offers free cervical cancer screenings to qualifying women every Wednesday at their facility in Chula Vista. Teresa Langley, Director of Operations at the clinic, explains that two community liaisons are available to assist patients through the screening process to help answer questions and provide patient assistance each step of the way. "We serve about 25 to 30 women every Wednesday, and have detected many cancerous cases and saved these women's lives," says Langley. "We are very grateful to provide these screening services to the South Bay community."

The risk for developing cervical cancer is still present as women age. Although most cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in women younger than 50, almost 20 percent of cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 65. The ACS guidelines for early detection are listed below and may help women of all ages prevent this disease. It is important to talk to your doctor about when screening is appropriate for you since individual risk factors often affect these recommendations.

¥Begin annual cervical cancer screening by age 21.

¥At age 30, women who have had 3 normal Pap tests can usually be tested once every 2 to 3 years.

¥Women age 70 and above who have had 3 or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer testing.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of cervical cancer. As with many cancers, avoiding tobacco products, eating a well-balanced diet, and exercising regularly can help reduce your risk of a cervical cancer diagnosis. The ACS reports that women who smoke are almost 2 times more likely than non-smokers to develop cervical cancer. Those women who consume diets low in fruits and vegetables are also at an increased risk, as are women who are overweight. You should consult with your doctor to determine how your lifestyle may affect your risk.

UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay offers breast and cervical cancer screenings every Wednesday by appointment; walk-ins are also welcome. For more information about our facility and to find out if you qualify for a free screening, call (619) 502-7730 or visit http:// radonc.ucsd.edu/SouthBay.




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