Many Women Uninformed About Cervical Cancer

Just 23 percent know a virus causes the disease, survey finds

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FRIDAY, July 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey finds too few women and their doctors discuss the dangers of infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer.

HPV affects about 80 percent of sexually active adults at some point in their lives. In some cases, the virus remains dormant for years after the initial infection. Available tests can help detect the virus early and prevent cervical malignancies.

The survey of 1,000 women in the United States, sponsored by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), found that 88 percent of women rely on their healthcare providers to learn about gynecological issues.

However, just 19 percent said their doctor had talked to them about HPV and its connection to cervical malignancies.

Only 17 percent of the respondents knew that cervical cancer is the most preventable kind of cancer; only 23 percent correctly identified HPV as the primary cause of cervical cancer.

The survey also found that women age 30 and younger -- who are at the smallest risk of developing cervical cancer -- know more about its cause and are more likely to discuss HPV with their doctor than older women.

"The communications gap between (healthcare) providers and patients related to cervical cancer and HPV is an issue that is largely due to time constraints, and a reluctance to discuss a sexually transmitted infection with women," Dr. Beth Jordan, ARHP medical director, said in a prepared statement.

"But because new techniques, including improved types of diagnostic testing, now make cervical cancer a disease that can be better prevented, we're encouraging women to discuss with their healthcare provider their HPV risk, get regular screenings with the Pap test and, if they are age 30 or older, ask about HPV testing as well," Jordan said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about HPV and cervical cancer.

SOURCE: Lippe Taylor, news release, June 28, 2005

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