Malignant tumors of the female reproductive system (excluding breast cancer) occur in 274,000 women and are estimated to kill more than 27,000 women in the United States each year. Estimated incidence and estimated mortality for the United States in 2000 are (American Cancer Society, 2002):
· Cervical cancer (estimates do not include in situ cancers): 13,000 new cases, 4,100 deaths
· Uterine cancer: 39,300 new cases, 6,600 deaths
· Ovarian cancer: 23,300 new cases, 13,900 deaths
· Vaginal cancer: 2,000 new cases, 800 deaths
· Vulvar cancer: 3,800 new cases, 800 deaths
Although some cancers are difficult to detect or prevent, yearly pelvic examination with a Pap smear is a painless and relatively inexpensive method of early detection. Health care providers can encourage women to follow this health practice by providing nonstressful examinations that are educational and supportive and offering an opportunity for the patient to ask questions and clarify misinformation. If more women understood that the pelvic examination and Pap smear do not have to be uncomfort-able or embarrassing, early detection rates would undoubtedly improve, and lives would be saved.