Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in women raises cervical cancer and dysplasia risk, making screening essential. The study was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Study author, Professor Tine Jess said, “Our research shows that patients with IBD, specifically Crohn’s disease, are at increased risk for developing cervical cancer, even when undergoing the recommended screening. These findings provide an important reminder for IBD patients, and their physicians, to follow the recommended screening guidelines for cervical cancer.”
The researchers conducted a population-based, case-controlled study of 27,408 women with IBD in Denmark, followed on average for 35 years. The researchers found a connection between IBD and abnormal tissue growth in the uterine cervix.
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease patients are at an increased risk for cervical cancer prior to IBD diagnosis, but Crohn’s disease specifically was found to be associated with a higher risk after IBD diagnosis.
In Crohn’s disease, researchers found a higher risk of cervical neoplasia in patients diagnosed at a younger age and in patients treated with azathioprine.
Screening guidelines for cervical cancer
In 2012, some changes were made to screening procedures for cervical cancer. Specifically, the American Cancer Society does not recommend that women undergo Pap tests yearly. Screening is an effective means to catch cervical cancer early on to begin treatment right away and to slow down or stop it from spreading and thus becoming life-threatening.
There are two main ways to screen for cervical cancer: a Pap test and a human papilloma virus (HPV) test. A Pap test can uncover early cell changes and treat them prior to becoming cancerous. An HPV test can detect infections that can contribute to cell changes ultimately leading to cancer. Both tests can be performed in conjunction with each other to get a better idea of what is going on.
The guidelines set out by the American Cancer Society for cervical cancer screening include:
- Screening begins at the age of 21.
- Women aged 21 to 29 should receive a Pap test every three years – HPV testing should only be done if the Pap test results come back abnormal.
- Women aged 30 to 65 should receive a Pap test and HPV test every five years – it is still okay to perform a Pap test every three years.
- Women over the age of 65 who underwent regular screening with normal results should not receive further screening – women who received a pre-cancer diagnosis should continue to be screened.
- Women who underwent a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer do not need to be screened
- Women who received the HPV vaccine should still continue to be screened as per the guidelines.
- Women at high risk for cervical cancer require greater screening – these women include those with HIV, organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES.
The change to the Pap test screening guidelines occurred for two reasons. First off, it takes many years for cervical cancer to develop, and second, it can lead to unnecessary procedures. If you have any concerns about screening for your risk of cervical cancer, speak with your doctor.
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