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Cervical Health Awareness Month: Cervical Cancer

Jan 15, 2018 by Comfort Keepers Newark, DE

January is Cervical Health Awareness month so as to educate women on their risks of HPV and cervical cancer.

Alongside this, it’s a special warning for senior women, as they may actually be at a greater risk for cervical cancer than others. Here’s why and what data we’ve been missing all along:

A Miscalculation

Women over 65 are told that they no longer need to get a Pap test for cervical cancer done because of “how low” the cervical cancer rate theoretically is in women.

It is true that it can be harder to screen older women for this form of cancer, as the cervix changes after menopause. However, they didn’t take into account the amount of women who have had hysterectomies by that age. A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus – and no uterus means no cervix. Therefore, no cervix means no cancer.

When taking into account the women who have not had a hysterectomy only, it turns out their cervical cancer risk is much higher – 18.6 per 100,000 woman, compared to 11.7 per 100,000 when taking all women into account as before.

Why Do Women Get Hysterectomies?

While you may be sitting there thinking, “Maybe I should go get a hysterectomy to reduce my cancer risk,” unless you have due cause to get one, it would just be an unnecessary procedure to undergo. Surgical intervention for any senior can be dangerous as they are prone to increased bleeding, complications with surgery, and poorer healing capacities. Not to mention, hysterectomy recovery time is on average six weeks for a strong, healthy individual.

Some reasons that would give due cause to getting rid of your uterus are:

  • Fibroids (as many as 80% of women have fibroids by the time they’re 40, actually)
  • Uterine prolapse
  • Cancer of the uterus, cervix, ovary, or endometrium
  • Endometriosis

Age and Race

In addition to the hysterectomy finding, it used to be believed that a woman’s cervical cancer risk peaked in her early 40’s.

As it turns out, those with the highest risk are actually in their late 60’s, with a rate of 27.4 per 100,000 women.

Race also can affect your risk, as African American women had a rate of 53 cervical cancer cases per 100,000 women.

Your Options

If you still have your uterus, and even if your doctor doesn’t recommend it because it’s “unnecessary,” do your best to try and get screened. A study from last year in older women (aged 55 to 79) getting screened found that they reduced their cancer risk over the following five to seven years. It may be worth your while to take initiative and check.

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