Doctors working to figure out why advanced cervical cancer on the rise

Local expert believes the main issue is access, exacerbated by pandemic

A recent study on cervical cancer is sending up red flags for doctors.

SAN ANTONIO – A recent study on cervical cancer is sending up red flags for doctors after a study published in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer analyzed data from nearly 30,000 women diagnosed with advanced disease.

The study found the rates of advanced cervical cancers are spiking, with unusual increases in white women, and experts are trying to find out why.

Historically, Black women have had the highest rates, and the large new study shows that’s still true. Their prevalence rate is nearly 60% higher than white women.

However, the new data revealed that one type of advanced cancer, adenocarcinoma, increased at nearly twice the rate in white women. It showed the highest spike in white women between 40 and 44 years old in the South. That was the group in the study that had the fewest screenings and typically had not had HPV vaccines that protect against cervical cancer.

It’s the first time experts have seen this type of data.

“We’ve made great strides with cervical cancer, with screening regularly, with pap smear, the new screening modalities,” said Dr. Patrick Ramsey, maternal medical director at University Health and UT Health San Antonio.

That’s why Dr. Ramsey believes the cause of this spike has to do with access.

“I think the COVID-19 pandemic has kind of put a pause on people coming in for the regular care,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said those regular screenings are crucial in picking up the slower, more lethal cancers that can develop.

It’s especially important if women have certain risk factors.

“If patients have diabetes, high blood pressure, those types of factors --that may put them at higher risk. Again, not having regular care for those conditions could increase risk for developing the cancers later as well,” Ramsey said.

He urges women to make their appointments, saying doctors have been vaccinated and their offices are safe.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.