• Cancer

    Women’s Wellness: Cervical cancer more deadly than thought

a woman with a head scarf sitting quietly on a couch with her hand together, deep in thought looking sad, perhaps praying

More women in the U.S. are dying of cervical cancer than previously thought, and the rate of Black women dying is similar to women in developing countries. This latest research was published on Monday, Jan. 23, in Cancer.

Mayo Clinic obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Jamie Bakkum-Gamez, who was not involved with the study, says, "This sheds some very important light on continued health care disparities here in the United States." Dr. Bakkum-Gamez says researchers in this study incorporated the rate of hysterectomy for prior non-cancerous indications into their calculation of the risk of dying from cervical cancer. She says it's also important as most women who undergo a hysterectomy have their cervix removed which essentially eliminates the risk of cervical cancer.

"As physicians who screen women for cervical cancer and treat cervical cancers and precancers, we thought the gap between white women and black women’s risk of dying from cervical cancer was closing. This study shows that the gap in survival outcomes is clearly still present." - Dr. Bakkum-Gamez

Dr. Bakkum-Gamez says that history has demonstrated regular screening with Pap tests decreases mortality from cervical cancer.  She states that, after the Pap test was widely adopted, the rate of cervical cancer incidence and death from cervical cancer decreased by 60 percent in the U.S. Screening with the Pap test identifies cervical precancers that can be treated before they become invasive cancers, which can be challenging to treat and potentially lethal.

"This study suggests that Pap tests, one of the most effective screening tests available for any cancer, are not equitably occurring among black women as compared to white women. This likely represents barriers to accessing preventive care, whether geographical, financial, or other.  Efforts to mitigate barriers in health care access are critical in prevention of cervical cancer."
- Dr. Bakkum-Gamez


medical illustration of female organs and cervical cancer


Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that concern you.

Review more articles about cervical cancer:

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