Home Health A ‘concerning’ number of women 65 and older are dying from cervical cancer, according to a new study

A ‘concerning’ number of women 65 and older are dying from cervical cancer, according to a new study

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More older women are being diagnosed with end-stage cervical cancer, which has a low survival rate. (Getty Images)

Nearly one-fifth of newly diagnosed cervical cancers between 2009 and 2018 were in women aged 65 and older, according to the new UC Davis. studyBut what worries experts is that older women (71%) have terminal cancer more than younger women (48%), according to the study. low survival rate It only gets worse with age.

In general, if cervical cancer is diagnosed after it has spread to nearby tissues, organs, or lymph nodes, the 5-year relative survival rate is 59%, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). However, studies have found that the 5-year relative survival rate for late-stage disease is lower, ranging from 23.2% to 36.8% for women aged 65 years or older compared to women younger than 65 years (41.5% to 51.5%). rice field. (In comparison, if cervical cancer is diagnosed early, the five-year relative survival rate is 92%, according to the NCI.)

At the present time screening guidelines According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), people age 65 and older who had a normal cervical cancer screening test in the past 25 years and had a negative result in the 10 years prior to age 65 had: It recommends that women should not be screened for cervical cancer. Once the screening has stopped, please pay attention to the guidelines. do not start again.

However, as this study reveals, the risk of cervical cancer does not simply disappear at age 65.

Lead author of the study, Julianne Cooley, a senior statistician at the University of California, Davis, told Yahoo Life that the American Cancer Society expects 13,960 women in the United States to be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2023. He says he predicts that 20% are over 65,” she says.

Cooley says the findings are “very concerning” because “cervical cancer is preventable through screening and no one should die from this disease.”

Dr. Connie Liu TrimbleA professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine agrees, calling it a “drama.” She told her Yahoo Life:

So what can older women do to protect their health?

First, what causes cervical cancer?

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), a very common virus. Approximately 13 million Americans are infected with HPV each year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HPV is vaginal, anal, oral sex, and through skin-to-skin contact with the genitals of an infected person. “If you’ve had sex, you’ve been exposed to HPV. Stop it completely,” he says, Trimble.

There are over 200 types of HPV, including low-risk types that cause genital warts. 14 high-risk types (especially HPV16 and HPV18). some types of cancer — It includes cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and back of the throat, as well as cervical cancer, according to the CDC.

In most cases, “the immune system can clear HPV, but the body’s ability to do so diminishes over time.” Dr. Renata Urbana gynecologic oncologist at UW Medicine, told Yahoo Life.

However, in some cases, HPV persists. A few years Precancer “takes 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer,” says Trimble, and can cause abnormal changes in cervical cells that can lead to cancer.

Are current screening guidelines for older women inadequate?

Although more than 20% of cervical cancer cases are found in women over the age of 65, these cancers are more likely to occur in those who were regularly screened for cervical cancer before age 65. It happens infrequently,” said Sarah Diemert, a nurse and director of health standards integration and assessment.for Planned Parenthood Alliance of Americatold Yahoo Life.

Combined with the fact that advanced-stage cervical cancer is on the rise in this age group, this is likely because HPV-infected cervical cells can take 10 years or more to transform into cancer, Dr. Urban said. “It means women aren’t getting proper screening.” It’s just that the doctor didn’t do a check-up. Or do you need to extend screening beyond age 65?

“Because there was no data on whether women over age 65 diagnosed with cervical cancer were screened before age 65, the results of this study do not indicate whether screening should continue after age 65,” Cooley said. I can’t decide what,” he said.

However, she said: Screening guidelines may therefore be adequate, but older women are more susceptible to late-stage cervical cancer diagnoses because they did not follow screening guidelines before she turned 65. “

Older women may also underestimate their risks. Cervical cancer is most often diagnosed in women from the age of 35 to the age of 44, with an average age at diagnosis of 50, Diemert said. “Many older women are unaware that the risk of developing cervical cancer still exists as they age,” she says.

How is end-stage cervical cancer treated?

Treatment is usually a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, and a special treatment called brachytherapy that places a source of radiation. in the vaginaaccording to ACS.

But Trimble says late-stage cervical cancer can be “really difficult” to treat, especially in older patients. As patients get older, Dr. Urban says, “higher rates of hypertension and diabetes can affect kidney function and affect the ability to receive chemotherapy, the most common form of radiation therapy. Additionally, some of the side effects can include loose stools and diarrhea, but these side effects are more severe in older women as they can be more prone to dehydration and fatigue. There is a possibility.

What can older women do to protect their health?

“These findings reinforce the need for all people with a cervix to have regular cervical cancer screening and other types of cancer screening,” Diemert said.

Cooley says it’s important to determine if a woman meets screening guidelines before turning 65 before stopping routine screening. “If an older woman has not been screened regularly before the age of 65, she should schedule a catch-up test as soon as possible,” she says. Trimble adds that if your doctor doesn’t or won’t screen you for cervical cancer, you’ll need to find a gynecologist who does.

Guidelines recommend that most individuals stop cervical cancer screening by age 65, but screening after age 65 may be recommended.people who have not been properly screened, or whose mothers have taken hormones called hormones Diethylstilbestrol (DES) People who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system,” says Diemart, and people should discuss with their health care provider how often to get screened and up to what age.

It’s also important to see your doctor if you have symptoms of cervical cancer, says Cooley. early symptoms According to the NCI, it includes postcoital, intermenstrual or postmenopausal vaginal bleeding, and pelvic pain or pain during intercourse. Or painful urination, dull back pain, etc.

Older people should be aware of the risks of cervical cancer in general and their own, says Diemart. These risks include a personal history of cervical, vaginal or vulvar dysplasia (abnormal cell proliferation).family history of cervical cancer; smoking; and other infections, including chlamydia.

The good news is that if a precancer is found during screening, it can be treated and “prevented from getting cervical cancer.”

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