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Cervical Cancer in Pennsylvania: Easing the Burden
Authorization: 2003 House Resolution 745


Cervical cancer had been one of the most common causes of death for women in the United States up until the mid-1950s. Since then, cervical cancer deaths and incidence rates have been in steep decline primarily because of improved gynecological care. Between 1955 and 1992, the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States decreased by 74 percent. Pap tests, for example, provide early detection of cervical cell damage, and early diagnosis is vital for successful treatment of cervical cancer.

Despite the progress made in reducing the incidence of the disease, it remains a significant threat to women’s health. To combat this threat, public health efforts are varied and widespread, and initiatives strive to reach out to as many women as possible. Programs exist at the state and federal levels to fund and conduct research and provide tests and treatments for women. Individually, women are urged to obtain regular gynecological care, especially screenings for cervical cancer.

The first chapter of this report describes the threats posed by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is related to nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The report discusses the types of HPV, how it is spread, its symptoms, and the processes by which the virus can lead to cervical cancer. The ensuing chapter describes the anatomy of the cervix and provides some insight into the process that leads from cervical cell damage (dysplasia) to cancer. The next chapter discusses data and compares cancer incidence and death rates of the U.S. and Pennsylvania.

The report next addresses cervical cancer prevention. It begins with a discussion of the risks that women face with regard to their reproductive health. The report provides some details on the numbers of women affected by these risks for both the U.S. and Pennsylvania populations.

The chapter on prevention has a strong focus on the steps women need to take to reduce their risk of falling victim to cervical cancer. Pap tests are discussed in depth, along with the recommended guidelines for gynecological care from several national health organizations. The chapter describes the various federal and Pennsylvania programs that endeavor to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

The next chapter focuses on cancer treatment. It describes each stage of cancer and how the body is affected by it. The prognosis of each stage is offered as well. Treatment options are discussed in detail, with likely treatments linked to each cancer stage. The chapter provides both a description of what a woman with cervical cancer can expect to endure and an overview of coping strategies for women who are battling the disease.

The final chapter describes legislation at the federal and state level that is targeted at cervical cancer as a matter of public health and also as a means of assisting individual women both through prevention and treatment.

The report concludes with recommendations.