Black women in N.C., U.S. are dying disproportionately of cervical cancer

Black women in N.C., U.S. are dying disproportionately of cervical cancer
January 26
06:00 2017



According to a new study published this week, African-American women are dying of cervical cancer at an alarming rate – 77 percent higher – than previously thought. Unlike other cancers, the disease is completely preventable with the proper Pap screening test and HPV vaccinations.

But unfortunately, because many black women do not get preventative Pap screening tests, they are diagnosed too late for effective treatments to help.

To add insult to injury, with the announced intentions of the Trump Administration and the Republican-led Congress to gut, then end the Affordable Care Act, without a reasonable, comprehensive replacement plan in sight, many of the preventative services that helped physicians identify cancer patients early for treatment will be lost, especially to poor women of color, observers say.

“Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower, narrow part of the uterus [or womb],” according to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. “Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus [HPV],” the OWH continued, adding, “Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent with regular Pap screening tests and HPV vaccination. It is also very curable when found and treated early.”

Men do not get cervical cancer, and nor do women who have had a hysterectomy where their cervix has been removed.

Approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer annually, OWH states. While all women are at risk, females 30 years old and older are most likely to contract it usually through sexual contact, mostly high risk. The viral infection can be present for years, developing into cervical cancer through smoking, contracting HIV/AIDS, taking birth control pills for five years or more, or having given birth to three or more children.

There maybe no symptoms for a while, until the cervical cancer is advanced, in which case there may be either vaginal bleeding or discharge. A doctor should be seen immediately.

As reported this week in the peer-reviewed medical journal Cancer and The New York Times, “The death rate from cervical cancer in the United States is considerably higher than previously estimated, and the disparity in death rates between black women an white women is significantly wider.”

The Times continued, “The rate at which black American women are dying from the disease is comparable to that of women in many poor developing nations, researchers reported.” Based of health data from 2000-2012, the mortality rate for black women is 10.1 per 100,000, compared to 4.7 per 100,000 for whites.

Previously, studies had the mortality rate from cervical cancer for black women at 5.7 per 100,000, and white women at 3.2 per 100,000.

Ironically, researchers had previously reported that mortality rates for black and white women were tracking down in recent years.

In North Carolina, researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill determined in 2012 that there were areas of the state with higher mortality rates per cervical cancer infection than the rest of the nation. After studying cervical cancer cases in the state from 1998 – 2007, UNC researchers determined even then that though most cases were among white women, black women were 10.6 per 100,000, while whites were 7.3 per 100,000. Black women, however, died from the disease disproportionately at 4.5 per 100,000 (compared to 2.2 per 100,000 for whites, and 2.2 for Hispanic women).

Most importantly, the poorer the North Carolina county was, the higher the prevalence of cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates were. The North Carolina Central Cancer Registry shows that in 2015, black women were most likely to die as a result. According to state statistics, 350 women in North Carolina are diagnosed with it annually, with 100 resulting in deaths.

Depending on their age, younger women (21 to 30) should be tested once every three years, women 30 – 64 should get a Pap and HPV test once every five years, according to the OWH.

In Forsyth County, if you want to be screened for cervical cancer, and you’re between 40 and 64 years of age (with an emphasis of 50-64) go to the Womanwise/WISE WOMAN Clinic at the Forsyth County Department of Health, Clinic B, on 799 North Highland Avenue in Winston-Salem.

The clinic is free of charge for those who have no insurance (or insurance with high deductible), no Medicaid, and no Medicare Part B. A woman under age 40 must be symptomatic to be seen.

Appointments are necessary and may be made by calling 336-703-3196, Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Appointment times vary –two morning appointments and two afternoon appointments are scheduled each day Monday through Friday.

Women seeking testing can also go to the North Carolina Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP). The program serves North Carolina women who are uninsured or underinsured, who don’t have Medicare or Medicaid, and who are between the ages of 21 and 64. The program serves women who have a household income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, meaning a single woman can qualify for the program if her income is up to $29,700 a year. It provides Pap tests and other screening services.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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