Cervical cancer rates remain low in the United States, with the incidence having plateaued for decades. And yet, in 2019, more than 13,000 US women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.1 Globally, in 2018 almost 600,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer2; it is the fourth most frequent cancer in women. This is despite the fact that we have adequate primary and secondary prevention tools available to minimize—and almost eliminate—cervical cancer. We must continue to raise the bar for preventing, screening for, and managing this disease.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines provide a highly effective primary prevention strategy, but we need to improve our ability to identify and diagnose dysplastic lesions prior to the development of cervical cancer. Highly sensitive HPV testing and cytology is a powerful secondary prevention approach that enables us to assess a woman’s risk of having precancerous cells both now and in the near future. These modalities have been very successful in decreasing the incidence of cervical cancer in the United States and other areas with organized screening programs. In low- and middle-income countries, however, access to, availability of, and performance with these modalities is not optimal. Innovative strategies and new technologies are being evaluated to overcome these limitations.
Advances in radiation and surgical technology have enabled us to vastly improve cervical cancer treatment. Women with early-stage cervical cancer are candidates for surgical management, which frequently includes a radical hysterectomy and lymph node dissection. While these surgeries traditionally have been performed via an exploratory laparotomy, minimally invasive techniques (laparoscopic and robot-assisted surgical techniques) have decreased the morbidity with these surgeries. Notable new studies have shed light on the comparative effectiveness of minimally invasive technologies and have shown us that new is not always better.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently released its updated cervical cancer screening guidelines. The suggested approach to screening differs from previous recommendations. HPV testing as a primary test (that is, HPV testing alone or followed by cytology) takes the spotlight now, according to the analysis by the Task Force.
In this Update, we highlight important studies published in the past year that address these issues.
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