Cervical Cancer: More Pap Screening Needed

Asian American women have one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the US. Vietnamese American women in particular have an incidence rate five times higher than Caucasian women. The reason for this disparity is due to the fact that Asian American women have a much lower rate of cervical cancer screening than any other group. With early detection, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and curable diseases affecting women.

The development of cervical cancer is very slow. It starts as a pre-cancerous condition called dysplasia which, if detected by a Pap test is entirely treatable. If this condition is untreated it will develop into cervical cancer and spread to the intestines, lungs and liver. It can take years for pre-cancerous changes to turn into cervical cancer.

70% of the cases of cervical cancer is caused by the HPV (human papillomavirus) virus. HPV infects at least 50% of all people who have had sex at some time in their lives. A reported three fourths of sexually active people between 15 and 49 have been infected. There are 100 different types of HPV, 40 of which are sexually transmitted. 2 out of those 40 types can lead to cervical cancer.

You are more likely to get HPV if you: have sex at an early age, have many sexual partners, have a sex partner who has had multiple partners, have been taking birth control pills for more than 5 years, have a weakened immune system, or have infections with genital herpes or chronic Chlamydia.


While cervical cancer is highly preventable in the early stages, there are typically no symptoms until it has advanced. Some symptoms that may occur include: continual vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause, heavier periods lasting longer than usual.

In its advanced stages, the following symptoms may occur: loss of appetite, fatigue, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain, a single swollen leg, heavy vaginal bleeding, leaking of urine or feces from the vagina, and bone fractures.


Cervical cancer is entirely preventable. If found early, abnormal cells can be treated before they turn into cervical cancer. Make sure to get a Pap test every one to three years if you have been sexually active, starting no later than 20 years of age.

A vaccine called Gardasil has been approved for girls and women between the ages 9-26 that can help prevent the infection of the HPV viruses that cause 70% of all cervical cancers. It is recommended to get the vaccine before you engage in sexual activity.


Treatment of cervical cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, the size and shape of the tumor, the general health of the woman, and her desire to have children in the future. Early cervical cancer can be easily treated by removing the pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue without removing the uterus or damaging the cervix.

When the cancer has spread, hysterectomy, or the removal of the uterus is performed. Radical hysterectomy is performed when the spreading of the cancerous cells have damaged a large area of the surrounding tissues including the internal lymph nodes and the upper part of the vagina. In the most extreme case, all of the organs of the pelvis including the bladder and rectum are removed in a pelvic exenteration. Radiation and chemotherapy may be used to treat cancer that has spread beyond the pelvis.