January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, an important time at the beginning of the year when an emphasis is placed on women’s health and cancer awareness.
Cervical cancer most commonly develops in women between the ages of 20 and 50, and according to the American Cancer Society, a low percentage of cases occur in women over the age of 50 and under the age of 65 (approximately 20 percent of cases).
“Each year about 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,000 women die of it. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women and the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths among women,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America Director of Medical Standards Karen Shea MSN, WHNP-BC told VOXXI.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a form of cancer which occurs in the cells of the cervix, the narrow, neck-like passage which forms the lower portion of the uterus.
Like other forms of cancer, cervical cancer is the unregulated growth of abnormal cells, and like many other forms of cancer, it can be deadly if untreated.
The majority of cervical cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), an often sexually transmitted virus which is responsible not only for cervical cancer but for genital warts.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate there are over 40 different strains of HPV, including ones which affect the throat and mouth.
While HPV is believed to be responsible for most cervical cancer cases, Shea says there are other ways women develop the disease.
“People with HIV or other immune deficiencies are at increased risk because their immune systems are less able to clear HPV,” she explained. “Women who smoke are also more likely than non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Latinas have the highest incidence of cervical cancer, and are the third most likely group to die of the disease.”
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is particularly deadly for women because it can remain without symptoms until it progresses into the latest stages. It was not until the development of the Pap test that women saw a 70 percent reduction in the cervical cancer death rate between the years of 1955 and 1992.
“A Pap test does not detect HPV itself, but allows health care providers to find pre-cancerous changes and treat them before cervical cancer develops,” explained Shea. “Planned Parenthood recommends regular screenings. A laboratory technician uses a microscope to look at a sample of cervical cells for signs of abnormal cell changes that may be caused by HPV. These cell changes may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.”
Shea adds HPV testing is done in conjunction with Pap testing at the time of a gynecological examination. For women with abnormal cells, a colonoscopy or a cervical biopsy may be indicated to study the cervix more closely.
Symptoms when they occur, may include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Mucus tinged with blood
- Unexplained changes in the menstrual cycle
- Bleeding when the cervix is touched or bumped
- Pain during sex
- Anemia due to vaginal bleeding
- Urinary problems
- Back pain, leg pain, or pelvic pain
- Incontinence of the bladder or bowels
Can cervical cancer be cured?
“When caught early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent,” Shea told VOXXI, explaining the HPV vaccine is recommended as a particularly useful cervical cancer prevention method. “The HPV vaccine protects against two types of HPV that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that boys and girls get the vaccine at age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active, to maximize protection. But even those who have had sex can benefit from the vaccine.”
Even though cervical cancer has an extremely successful treatment rate, some groups are at a higher risk than others, including Latinas, who traditionally are diagnosed with cervical cancer in later stages.
“Access and cost may be the biggest factors,” Shea said, addressing the disparity. “A greater percentage of Latinas (37 percent) are uninsured than the women of any other racial or ethnic group, and more than a quarter of Latinas live in poverty. Latinas are also more likely to live in areas with poor access to family planning services.”
For women concerned about HPV and cervical cancer, annual Pap tests and health screenings are recommended.
Originally published by VOXXI as Cervical Cancer Awareness: Latinas at greater risk
Related on HuffPost:
Uninsured -- countrywide
Nearly 33 percent of Hispanics under the age of 65 <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus11.pdf#fig40" target="_hplink">had no health coverage</a> in 2010. Hispanics had the highest numbers of uninsured compared to blacks (22 percent), whites (14 percent) and others (19 percent) who lacked health insurance.
States With Highest Numbers Of Uninsured Latinos
<strong>Georgia:</strong> 45 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in the state of Georgia. Only 22 percent of the state's total population under age 65 is in the same situation. <strong>North Carolina:</strong> 49 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in the state of North Carolina. About 20 percent of North Carolina's population under age 65 is uninsured. <strong>Kentucky: </strong>51 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in the state of Kentucky. The same is true for only 18 percent of the rest of the state's residents under age 65. <strong>South Carolina:</strong> 57 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in the state of South Carolina. Just 22 percent of the total non elderly population in South Carolina is uninsured. <a href="http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparetable.jsp?ind=143&cat=3" target="_hplink">Source</a>
States With Lowest Numbers Of Uninsured Latinos
<strong> Massachusetts:</strong> 9 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in the state of Massachusetts. 6 percent of the total non elderly population in Massachusetts is uninsured. <strong>Michigan:</strong> 16 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in the state of Michigan. About 15 percent of the total non elderly population in Michigan is also uninsured. <strong>Wisconsin:</strong> 20 percent of Latinos under age 65 are uninsured in the state of Wisconsin. About 11 percent of the total non elderly population in Wisconsin is uninsured. <strong>Pennsylvania:</strong> 22 percent of non elderly Hispanics are uninsured in Pennsylvania. Only 13 percent of the state's total non elderly population faces the same problem. <a href="http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparetable.jsp?ind=143&cat=3" target="_hplink">Source</a>
The U.S. Hispanic population surged 43%, rising to 50.5 million in 2010 from 35.3 million in 2000. Latinos constitute 16% of the nation's total population. The Pew Hispanic Center projects that nearly <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2008/02/11/us-population-projections-2005-2050/" target="_hplink">one in five Americans (19%) will be foreign born</a> in 2050. And Latinos will represent 29 percent of the nation's population in 2050, accounting for almost one third of the entire country. Immigration will be the main factor for population growth. Of the 117 million people expected to join the U.S. population between 2005 to 2050, <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2008/02/11/us-population-projections-2005-2050/" target="_hplink">67 million will be immigrants.</a> Many of these immigrants <a href="http://prospect.org/article/reforms-mixed-impact-immigrants-0" target="_hplink">are not eligible</a> for government-sponsored or subsidized health care under The Affordable Care Act.
Immigrants And Medicaid
Medicaid provides essential coverage to vulnerable populations who might otherwise be uninsured. Latinos are about <a href="http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/FastFacts_LatnosandHealthCare2012.pdf" target="_hplink">two times more likely</a> than Whites to have coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP). But immigrants are<a href="http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/Fact_Sheet_Hispanics_and_Medicaid_State_by_State07-19-2011.pdf" target="_hplink"> less likely to have access to employer-sponsored </a>health insurance. Legal immigrants can enroll in Medicaid, CHIP only after they have been in the country for five years, while undocumented immigrants are barred from government insurance programs altogether, <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/07/falling-through-the-cracks.html" target="_hplink">according to The Daily Beast. </a>
Who Are Most Likely To Be Uninsured?
Uninsured adults are more common than children without health insurance, but Latino kids are <a href="http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/FastFacts_LatinosandHealthCare2012.pdf" target="_hplink">more than two times more likely than White children </a>to be uninsured. <a href="http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/FastFacts_LatinosandHealthCare2012.pdf" target="_hplink">Nearly 50 percent of Latino children</a> are enrolled in Medicaid (CHIP ). However, Latino children represent the largest portion of (39.1 percent) American children who are eligible for but not enrolled in these programs.
Leading Causes Of Death In The Latino Community In The U.S. :
1. Heart disease 2. Cancer 3. Unintentional injuries 4. Stroke 5. Diabetes 6. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 7. Chronic lower respiratory disease 8. Homicide 9. Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period, the months just before and after birth. 10. Influenza and pneumonia <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/OMHD/POPULATIONS/HL/hl.htm" target="_hplink">Source
Diabetes And Health Care Coverage
The Affordable Care Act allows for<a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/type-1-diabetes/how-health-care-reform-will-affect-people-with-type-1-diabetes.aspx" target="_hplink"> easier and more affordable treatment</a> for chronic diseases. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children under 19 due to a pre-existing condition and people who can not find affordable private coverage but earn too much for the now expanded Medicaid program or government insurance subsidies will be eligible for government-run high risk insurance pools. As diabetes disproportionately affects Hispanics in the United States, the ability to secure affordable coverage with a pre-existing condition is important. <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/factsheets/hispanic.htm" target="_hplink">According to a CDC investigation</a> Hispanics have double the risk of developing diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites and they tend to develop diabetes at a younger age. Latino children and youth under 20 years of age diagnosed with diabetes is growing at an alarming rate -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/diabetes-latinos-growing-rates-_n_1590697.html" target="_hplink">the fastest of any ethnic group in the U.S.</a>
In 2008, Hispanics made up nearly <a href="http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/FastFacts_LatinosandHealthCare2012.pdf" target="_hplink">16 percent of U.S. residents</a> but <a href="http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/FastFacts_LatinosandHealthCare2012.pdf" target="_hplink">but accounted for less than 10 percent</a> of the nation's total health care costs.
Health Care -- Political Implications
U.S. Hispanics prioritize immigration, healthcare, and unemployment to equal degrees,<a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/155327/Hispanic-Voters-Put-Issues-Immigration.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=All Gallup Headlines - Economy - Election 2012 - Government - Political Parties - Unemployment" target="_hplink"> according to a June Gallup Poll </a>. However, a slight majority of Hispanic registered voters (21 percent) identified healthcare as the most important issue when it comes to casting their vote.