Cervical Cancer, Race and Poverty

A re-examination of cancer data shows that cervical cancer is more common than originally thought, and that it is more deadly among minority and poor women.

Sometimes, you just have to reconsider the assumptions made in data analysis.  That’s what happened here.  The originally analysis looked at rates among all adult women.  The revision excludes women who have had a hysterectomy, for whom cervical cancer is no longer a possibility.

  • The adjustment took the rate for white women from 3.2 per 100,000 women to 4.7.
  • The adjustment took the rate for black women from 5.7 to 10.1 per 100,000 women.

Overall, there are about 4,000 new cases of cervical cancer per year.

The kicker is that while cervical cancer is treatable (my wife had an advanced case of it over 30 years ago), there are still people dying from it.  Routine screening is essential:

“A recent study in the journal Gynecologic Oncology that looked at 15,194 patients with advanced cervical cancer found that more than half did not receive treatment considered to be standard of care, and that those patients were more likely to be black and poor.

“According to the analysis published Monday, the hysterectomy-corrected mortality rates put black American women on par with women living in some underdeveloped countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.” [NY Times, see sources below]

One doctor interviewed for the article recalled recently having to outfit a 25-year-old female with a colostomy bag as a result of late detection.  Most patients with advanced cervical cancer never had a PAP Smear.

Access to healthcare and screening was one of the cardinal elements of the Affordable Care Act.  Current revisions will make this less accessible and more costly.  That means more deaths.










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