Poor black women in U.S. going without pap smears

A new reports shows that black women living in poor neighborhoods are less likely to get pap smears than women in more affluent neighborhoods.

“Even among women who were professionals or who were educated, they, too, had decreased screening if they lived in neighborhoods with high poverty,” said study author Geetanjali Dabral Datta, a postgraduate fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The report appears in the Feb. 1 issue of Cancer.
In their study, Datta and her colleagues focused on the connection between socioeconomic factors and how they affected cervical cancer screening, most notably the Pap smear. They collected data on more than 40,000 black women from across the United States. These women all participated in the Black Women’s Health Study of Boston University and Howard University.

What makes this report even more troubling is that black women have twice the mortality rate from cervical cancer as white women. This gap in cancer screening rates could be a contributing factor to this.
The reasons why certain women aren’t getting screened for cervical cancer remains unclear, Datta says. She speculates that it could be lack of access to transportation or child care. Datta also believes that the same trend might be seen in other kinds of preventative health measures like mammography and cardiovascular testing.
“There needs to be a focus on high poverty neighborhoods,” she says. “We need to think of people’s socioeconomic context when it comes to health behaviors.

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  • NancyP

    This is hardly a surprise. Of course problems of transportation, child care, job schedule and ease of taking time for doctor’s appointment, need to deal with another family member’s more urgent crisis, lack of the preventative visit habit (due to poverty and problems above), lack of lay medical knowledge (no spare cash to buy women’s magazines with health columns), lack of “peer pressure” from local women who regularly get Paps,etc all play a role in the lower level of preventative screening in women from poorer neighborhoods and women who are poor. It is my local clinical impression that poor women tend not to get mammograms as regularly – certainly there is a literature out there that African-American women present with larger, higher-stage breast cancers, though I can’t recall offhand what the socioeconomic status analysis details were on the studies.
    Women of all classes tend to put off their own “preventative maintainance” medical exams when there is a family crisis. Everyone in medical caretaking fields can describe many women patients who show up after their husband’s death or happen to ask the doc during their husband’s terminal hospital admission about some symptom the women have been having for a year but were too busy to address (breast lump, vaginal bleeding, etc).

  • idgie

    also check out this organization working on cervical cancer internationally…