The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009, about 11,270 cases of invasive cervical cancer (where the cancer has spread into adjacent tissues) were diagnosed in the United States. About 4,070 women died from cervical cancer in the United States during 2009.
Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. Between 1955 and 1992, the number of cervical cancer deaths dropped by 74%. The main reason for this change is the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find early cancer in its most curable stage. Only some women with pre-cancerous changes in the cervix will develop cancer. This process usually takes several years but sometimes can happen in less than a year.
The most important risk factor for developing cervical cancer is having had the human papillomavirus (HPV). Doctors can now test for the types of HPV that are most likely to cause cervical cancer (“high-risk” types) by looking for pieces of their DNA in cervical cells. The FDA has approved the HPV DNA test for use as a screening test in combination with the Pap test in women over 30 years old.