Cervical Cancer in Alabama
Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that starts in the cervix, the cervix connects the vagina, or birth canal, to the upper part of the uterus. Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Chronic infections associated with types of human papillomavirus, HPV, are usually the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that can be transmitted person-to-person during sex. Even though it most commonly occurs in women over the age of 30, women of all ages are at risk for cervical cancer.
Common risk factors:
- Unsafe sex
- Using birth control pills for longer than 5 years
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having given birth to 3 or more children
- HIV or any other condition that impacts the body’s immune system and response
Early screening and HPV vaccinations are forms of prevention against cervical cancer. When found early, cervical cancer is highly treatable and has been associated with high chances for longer survival as well as a better quality of life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2017, 238 new cases of cervical cancer were reported in Alabama. In the same year, an estimated 10 out of 100,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer. For reference, in the United States, for every 100,000 women, there are 8 women diagnosed with a case of cervical cancer.
In our state, the rate of new cervical cancer cases and the rate of deaths due to cervical cancer are significantly higher than the national average rates. An estimate of 250 new cases of cervical cancer and 110 deaths due to cervical cancer are expected to occur in Alabama in 2021.
The Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (ABCCEDP) provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings for women who meet eligibility guidelines. Free services include a pelvic exam, Pap smear, clinical breast exam, mammogram, and diagnostic services such as colposcopies and biopsies. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, HPV testing and Pap smears are among the top recommended methods to screen for cervical cancer. These recommendations suggest either having a Pap smear every 3 years or an HPV test every 5 years, both of which are traditionally performed in a doctor’s office.