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Dignity Health Expert Discusses New Findings That Suggest Cervical Cancer Is Deadlier Than Previously Thought


January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

John Farley, MD, COL(ret), interim director for the gynecologic oncology program at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, discusses a new study that suggests cervical cancer is deadlier than previously believed. The study, led by a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and recently published in the journal Cancer, suggests that African American women are dying from cervical cancer at a rate 77 percent higher than previously thought, and Caucasian women are dying at a rate 47 percent higher. Researchers found that previous estimates of cervical cancer death rates didn't account for women who had their cervixes removed in hysterectomy procedures, which eliminates the risk of developing the cancer.

"The new findings add to the current understanding of cervical cancer's impact on different communities and tell us there is substantial work to do to investigate and alleviate the racial minority disparity in cervical cancer in the US," says Dr. Farley, who was not involved in the study but co-authored an editorial about the new findings.

Researchers analyzed data regarding cervical cancer deaths in the United States, from 2000 to 2012, from the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results databases. The National Cancer Institute reports that there were nearly 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States last year and approximately 4,120 cervical cancer deaths.

While cervical cancer mortality rates may be higher than previously thought, Dr. Farley says he thinks the current screening recommendations for cervical cancer are still adequate. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. "Those who get cancer, many times, do not have access to screening," he adds. “More women should have access to screenings and other preventive measures.”

The comprehensive gynecologic oncology program at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s is a leader in advanced technologies for all gynecologic cancers and provides access to the latest investigational therapy and clinical trials from the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) and National Cancer Institute. Dr. Farley also serves as the chair of obstetrics and gynecology for Dignity Health Medical Group, and holds dual appointments as Professor at Creighton University School of Medicine at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s and The University of Arizona College of Medicine.