Cervical Cancer Awareness: Let’s Talk Screening, Prevention, and Support

January 8, 2021
two women smiling and embracing

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.

As we head into January, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer mortality rates have fallen drastically since the 1970s, when it was the leading cause of death for women. Yet, despite this decline, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 13,800 invasive cervical cancer cases would still be diagnosed in 2020. So, while we should celebrate how far we’ve come, we must also continue to make strides in reducing cervical cancer cases in the coming years.

Why have cervical cancer mortality rates declined?

The primary cause of the 50% decline in deaths from cervical cancer over the last 40 years is the increase in Pap tests. Pap tests involve scraping a sample of cells from the cervix, which are then tested for abnormalities or the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. If abnormalities are found in a Pap smear, treatment can usually prevent cervical cancer before it occurs. That’s why it’s so crucial for women ages 21-65 to have regular Pap tests.

Since HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, reducing HPV rates can also have a huge impact. That’s why the CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine as soon as they turn 11 or 12. If you’re interested in learning more about this groundbreaking new development — and the controversy surrounding its use — check out our radio show:

HPV Vaccine: The Underutilized Cure

Where can I find cervical cancer resources and support?

If you are living with cervical cancer or are a caregiver to someone with cervical cancer, the Cancer Support Community offers a variety of resources to help ease the burden of your journey.

Whatever stage you’re at on your cancer journey, we also encourage you to participate in our Cancer Experience Registry. This online survey helps us understand the emotional, social, and financial issues that people with cancer and their caregivers face. We then use this information to improve our cancer support services and advocate for the importance of support services to policymakers and the public. By giving 20-40 minutes of your time, you can help us ensure that no one faces cancer alone.

Next month, stay tuned as we cover National Cancer Prevention Month and other impactful cancer issues.