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Cervical Cancer Death: Why a Racial Gap?

Cervical Cancer Death: Why a Racial Gap?
There’s a significant gap between white women and women of color dying from cervical cancer.

Overall, cervical cancer prevalence has decreased. About 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Approximately 4,000 of those women die.

Why do more hispanic and black women die from cervical cancer than white women? There’s no biological difference between the cervixes of different races. 

Two reasons seem to dominate:

  1. Many of these women don’t have the access to preventative care, due to both financial concerns and location. 
  2. Cancer education for women focuses on breast cancer. There is more awareness about the importance of mammograms than there is about Pap smears.
The purpose of the Pap smear is to diagnose cervical cancer and pre-cancer risk. Cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. You are particularly at risk if you’ve had more than three sexual partners.

Most women who are exposed to the virus clear it. For those who don’t clear the virus, it settles on the cervix and creates an infection. The infection is caught during a Pap test. The conversion from infection to cancer takes many years.

With this information about the development of cervical cancer, Pap smears are no longer recommended as part of the annual exam. An exam every three to five years should catch any issues in plenty of time for treatment. Exams are no longer necessary at age 65, after two or three negative results in the previous decade. You should still have your gynecologist do regular exams as you age, but the Pap test is no longer necessary.

If you have a daughter or son over age ten and not yet sexually active, consider getting the HPV vaccination for your child.

Listen as Dr. Tara Allmen joins Dr. Pamela Peeke to discuss the racial gap in cervical cancer deaths, as well as everything you need to know about HPV.


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Featured Speaker:
Tara Allmen, MD
Dr. Tara AllmenDr. Tara Allmen is a Board Certified Gynecologist in New York City, NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner and author of the new book, Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife.