Cervical cancer screening has reduced new cases and deaths from the disease over the past 50 years. However, the percentage of women in the United States who are overdue for cervical cancer screening has been growing, and the reasons have not been clear.
To better understand the decline in cervical screening, researchers analyzed data on more than 20,000 women who were eligible for screening in the United States. Between 2005 and 2019, the analysis showed, the rates of timely cervical cancer screening decreased overall.1
In addition, the analysis showed disparities among groups of women. In 2019, compared with non-Hispanic White women, Asian and Hispanic women were more likely to be overdue for screening, as were women who lived in rural areas; lacked insurance; or identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, other, or unsure (LGBQ+). The most common reason study participants gave for not receiving timely screening was lack of knowledge about screening or not knowing they needed screening.
Improving Screening Rates Among Diverse Populations
“Cervical cancer is preventable,” said lead investigator Ryan Suk, PhD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston. “But the incidence of the disease is higher than it should be, and there are large disparities in the rates of timely screening among women of different sociodemographic groups.”
Ryan Suk, PhD
The new findings highlight how important it is for health-care providers to recommend cervical cancer screenings to their patients, Dr. Suk continued. Awareness campaigns that use culturally appropriate messages are needed to promote cervical cancer screening to groups with lower-than-optimal screening rates, Dr. Suk added. The investigators reported that many women, including those who lack insurance, those from racial and ethnic minority groups, and those who identify as LGBQ+, may experience multiple barriers to screening.
They also cautioned that reducing the burden of cervical cancer will involve more than just improving timely cervical cancer screening rates. Another challenge is ensuring that women follow up with their health-care providers after abnormal findings from cervical screening.
Source: “Why Are Many Women Overdue for Cervical Cancer Screening?” was originally published by the National Cancer Institute, 2022.
1. Suk R, Hong Y, Rajan SS, et al: Assessment of US Preventive Services Task Force guideline-concordant cervical cancer screening rates and reasons for underscreening by age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, rurality, and insurance, 2005–2019. JAMA Netw Open 5:e2143582, 2022.