Study says poor African American women less likely to receive pap smears

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005 Black American women living in communities with high poverty rates are significantly less likely to be screened for cervical cancer, a study finds.

The Harvard School of Public Health's Geetanjali Dabral Datta investigated the relationship between individual characteristics and larger socioeconomic factors and cervical cancer screening rates. The Febreuary 1 issue of Cancer carries the study. More than 40,000 black women from across the United States participated in the Black Women's Health Study.

"African-American women have twice the mortality rate from cervical cancer as white women," said Elizabeth Ward, the director of the American Cancer Society. "Researchers need to investigate how those differences are related to socioeconomic status. One of the big factors that may account for this finding is access to high-quality medical care. Often communities that have high poverty rates either lack access to good quality care, or people have to travel longer distances to obtain high-quality care."

David L. Katz at Yale University's School of Medicine said; "While this finding is not surprising, it is noteworthy just the same. No one should die of cervical cancer, because a simple screening test reliably finds the condition in its earliest stages when cure is almost universally achievable. Yet, several thousand deaths from this cancer occur each year in the U.S."

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