Pap smears, safe sex prevent cervical cancer, experts conclude
April 4, 1996
Web posted at: 1:00 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health concluded Wednesday that virtually all cervical cancer deaths could be prevented by a combination of safe sex and regular pap smears. Almost 5,000 American women die every year from cervical cancer.
Three months ago, 31-year-old Valerie Paterno found out through a routine pap smear that she had cervical cancer. Her treatment: a radical hysterectomy. Today, she is alive.
Now she encourages other women to have regular pap smears.
"It's not something you put off. It's not a fun thing to do, but it's not a bad thing to do. And it saved my life; it could save yours"
-- Valerie Paterno
Doctors say that for treatment to be effective, the cancer must be detected early.
"The key is going to be making sure that all women have access to medical care, access to the medical system where they can then enter into these screening programs," said Dr. Albert Steren, a gynecological oncologist at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
The expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health agrees. It found that more widespread pap smears, especially among the economically disadvantaged such as minorities, older women, rural residents, and the poor could wipe out the disease.
"In theory, cervical cancer should be one of the cancers we can completely prevent," said Dr. Patricia Braly of the Louisiana State University Medical Center.
Since the introduction of the pap test 50 years ago, there has been a steep decline in cervical cancer in the United States. Nevertheless, there are still 15,700 new cases a year, 6 percent of all cancers diagnosed. The panel said half of all women diagnosed with cervical cancer have never had a pap smear, and another 10 percent have not been tested in the past five years.
The panel also found that almost all women diagnosed with cervical cancer were infected at some point in their lives with cervical cancer is the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is transmitted sexually.
"Cervical cancer is unique in that it is the first major solid tumor to have been shown to be virally induced in essentially every case," the group's report said.
For that reason, the group said, it is important to discourage early sexual intercourse among adolescents and to encourage the use of condoms.
Doctors say 70 to 85 percent of cervical cancers can be cured if detected early. As for treatment, the panel recommends surgery or radiation therapy for cervical cancer that has not spread beyond the cervix. For more advanced cervical cancer, it says, radiation is the treatment of choice.
FeedbackSend us your comments.
Selected responses are posted daily.
Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.