DORAL, Fla. – An estimated 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year in the United States.
When caught early, the disease is curable but recent research is showing a rise in new case of advanced cervical cancer.
This health report examines factors that may be in play and what can be done to avoid a deadly diagnosis.
With a special needs daughter depending on her, Avi Grant-Noonan has always been proactive about her health.
“I’m the kind of person that if I feel any kind of pain, what is this what is going on,” she said.
In 2019, while struggling to get pregnant with a second child, Grant-Noonan learned she had stage three cervical cancer.
“I couldn’t believe it and I said to myself I knew something was wrong,” she said.
Dr. John Siemon, a gynecologist-oncologist with the Center for Gynecologic Oncoloy in Miramar, Fla. said the rise in late stage cervical cancer has been found in all races and ethnicities.
“As well as an overall rise in advanced stage cervical cancer in all age groups over thirty,” he said.
Siemon said what’s unclear is why it’s happening.
“It could be environmental risk factors but we know that the majority of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus. It’s a sexually transmitted virus. Most people over the course of time will have their body clear that virus but if it stays around too long it can lead to cellular changes and eventually lead to cervical cancer,” he said.
Those changes can be detected through a simple screening called a pap smear.
According to current guidelines, women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a pap test alone every three years.
HPV testing can also be consider for women between the ages of 25 and 29.
Women age 30-65 can either have a pap test every three years or an HPV test alone every five years.
But the rise in cervical cancer rates raises questions about those recommendations.
“If you go three or five years without a pap smear it is possible that with these guidelines in this more rare aggressive form of cancer that eventually the guidelines need to be adjusted,” Siemon said.
After undergoing treatment, Grant-Noonan remains in remission now four years after her diagnosis.
“Life is short, and I enjoy every single moment that I can,” she said.
The HPV vaccine is over 99 percent effective in preventing the virus, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer, making it basically a vaccine against cancer
It’s recommended for both girls and boys at the target age of 11 to 12.