Denmark has one of highest incidences of cervical cancer in the Western world. But once a person has turn 65, they are no longer automatically screen even though older women are, in fact, the cohort with the highest mortality. This is show by new research from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital.
Cervical cancer has become known as a young women’s disease. But it’s a myth that it only affects young people. In fact, the mortality rate among women above the age of 65 is 25 to 30% higher than previously thought,” says medical doctor and postdoc Anne Hammer from the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital.
Cervical cancer mortality
They behind the new study which has just publish in the scientific journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavia. The researchers look at cervical cancer mortality rates in Denmark between 2002 and 2015 and found that the over-65s stood out. For example; the mortality rate was five times higher among woman age 75 to 79 compare to those age 40 to 45.
The research results support a study from November 2018 in which Anne Hammer and her research colleagues; who find that older women were very often diagnose so late that the cancer was already too big to be surgically removed. In such cases, patients are instead treat with radiotherapy and chemotherapy; which are with side effects such as pain, and urination and defecation discomfort.
More than half of the older women with cervical cancer who stop screening due to age; which are diagnose with cancer that is so advance that surgery is no longer possible. “When people are screen, the cancer can be discover in its initial stages or at such an early stage that surgical treatment is still possible. This significantly reduces the risk of dying,” says Anne Hammer.
With the current rules, the screening programme stops if a person is test negative between the ages of 60 to 64. According to Anne Hammer, there are plenty of grounds, especially with the new studies; so to introduce initiatives to reduce the incidences and mortality from cervical cancer. This could for example be done by extending the screening programme.
The negative test does not guarantee that someone won’t get the disease after the screening ends; because the HPV virus that is the cause of the cancer can lie dormant in the body, says Anne Hammer. They also points out that there will very likely be fewer young women with cervical cancer in five to 10 years time due to the HPV vaccine.
But it will take many years before they see an effect among older women. When the society you live in has such a high incidence of advance cervical cancer among older women with such a high mortality rate; so then it is important to explore which interventions be initiate to reverse this trend, says Anne Hammer; so before adding that as long as the screening programme is not extend; hence the only thing to do is to keep a close eye on symptoms such as bleeding and alter discharge.