Jan 11, 2018 by Alan White
Many years ago, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death among other cancers for women in the USA. Nowadays pap smears are cheap and convenient, allowing women to catch the disease early. However, it is still important to watch for cervical cancer! Women over the age of 65 are 3 times as likely to die of this cancer than women under 65. This may be because older women are less likely to get tested and received aggressive anti-cancer therapies, but the takeaway is that your loved one should watch for cervical cancer regularly. Our team at Comfort Keepers is caring for the elderly at home, so we want you to know about the risks of cervical cancer.
Cancer in the cervix starts when normal cells in the cervix become ‘pre-cancerous’, abnormal but not dangerous cells. Not all pre-cancerous cells develop into cervical cancer – some disappear on their own – and even the ones that become cancerous can take several years to do so. Once a pre-cancerous cell mutates further it becomes cancerous. Caring for an elderly family member at home, you may not notice when cervix becomes pre-cancerous.
About 90% of cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which occurs near the base of the cervix. When this cancer starts off it is only on the upper layer of the skin and is fairly thin (2mm or less). This is called “stage 0”. Over time this carcinoma will begin to spread, growing wider and deeper over stages 1 & 2. A squamous cell carcinoma is considered stage 3 once it enters a lymph node near the cervix. Finally, a stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma means it has spread to other organs in the body (“metastasized”).
Cervical cancer can be incredibly dangerous if it isn’t dealt with immediately. Thankfully, inexpensive pap smears allow women to detect cervical cancer or pre-cancer, and deal with it early. It is recommended that adults between 21 and 65 get pap smears every 3-5 years. If your loved one has been previously screened and shows no signs of cervical cancer risk, they don’t need to get pap smears.
Just in case, your loved one may want to watch for signs of a developing cervical cancer. Your loved one should watch for abnormal bleeding or discharge. If your loved one detects this, they should seek medical attention as quickly as possible instead of waiting.
Comfort Keepers is an expert at caring for the elderly at home. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach to out to us.