Cervical cancer is killing women at a rate much higher than previously estimated, a new study shows.
Previous research into cervical cancer mortality rates didn’t account for women who’d had hysterectomies: It’s impossible to develop cervical cancer after a hysterectomy because the procedure removes the uterus and cervix.
In a study published Monday in the journal Cancer, researchers removed women who’d undergone hysterectomies from the sample group in order to more accurately calculate the risk of dying from cervical cancer among those who are actually susceptible.
“In our recalculation, we took out the fraction of women who’ve had hysterectomies,” lead study author Anne F. Rositch, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told SELF. The data Rositch and her colleagues received paint a stark reality about the rate of survival among cervical cancer patients.
The study found that, in the U.S., cervical cancer is killing black women at a rate 77% higher than previously estimated, and white women at a rate 47% higher than previously thought. (As for other races, Rositch told SELF their mortality rates closely resemble those of non-Hispanic white women.)
Previous estimates showed 5.7 out of 100,000 black women dying of cervical cancer; this recent study calculated a mortality rate closer to 10 per 100,000 women. For white women, whose risk of dying of cervical cancer was previously thought to be 3.2 deaths in 100,000, the new research shows it’s closer to 4.7 deaths per 100,000.
The study also found a portion of women over age 65, past the age of required screenings, are dying from cervical cancer.
“Racial disparity may be explained by lack of access or limited access to cervical cancer screening programs among black women when compared to whites,” Marcela del Carmen, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, who is unaffiliated with the study, told CNN.
Cervical cancer is preventable through vaccine and screening tests, and the American Cancer Society recommends that women age 21-29 have Pap tests every three years to screen for it. Women age 30 and older are advised to have a Pap test combined with a HPV test every five years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the human papillomavirus (HPV), which affects roughly 25% of Americans, is one of the predominant causes of cervical cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine can help lower one’s risk of developing cancer.