Experts say that the risk of a woman dying from cervical cancer is much higher than they originally thought.
According to a study published on Monday, Black women are dying from cervical cancer at a rate 77% higher than previously estimated. White women are dying at a rate 47% higher. Apparently the increase in percentages stems from the original study not taking into account women who had their cervixes removed in hysterectomy procedures.
“Prior calculations did not account for hysterectomy because the same general method is used across all cancer statistics,” said Anne Rositch, assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
The new report found that Black women who were 85 years old or older saw the highest increase in deaths due to cervical cancer.
In the last year there were about 12,990 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States and 4,120 cervical cancer deaths.
As to why Black women are dying of cervical cancer at a higher rate, Dr. Marcela del Carmen, a gynecologic oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center says, “Racial disparity may be explained by lack of access or limited access to cervical cancer screening programs among black women when compared to whites.”
“This gap and disparity need to be addressed with initiatives focusing on better access to prevention or screening programs, better access to HPV vaccination programs and improved access and adherence to standard of care treatment for cervical cancer,” she added.
“There’s a big difference in those who are insured and not insured, what type of education women get in cancer prevention and why Pap smears are so important,” says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. “Because of the lack of access to care, women are getting diagnosed with HPV — the leading cause of cervical cancer — later on rather than earlier, giving them an increased risk that it will progress into cervical cancer.”