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Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. By getting regular Pap tests, doctors can find and treat abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancerous.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that black and white women are dying at higher rates from cervical cancer than previously thought.
Latinas already have the highest rates of all groups of women.
“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 and lead author of the study in an interview with CNN.
The National Cancer Institute determined that there were nearly 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer recorded in the United States in 2013.
Of that number, 4,120 patients died from the disease.
Latinas are more likely to die from cervical cancer than non-Hispanic whites.
“We can’t tell from our study what might be contributing to the differences in cervical cancer mortality by age and race,” Rositch said. “Now that we have a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem, we have to understand the reasons underlying the problem.”
For Latinas, the lack of screening “opportunities” is an important factor behind this disparity. In fact, 6 in 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a Pap test or have not been tested in the past five years.
Cervical cancer symptoms usually do not appear until after the cancer has advanced. This is why screening and HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccinations are urged.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women should begin cervical cancer screenings at age 21 by having a Pap test every three years.
By age 30, women should have a Pap test combined with a HPV test every five years.
“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,” Rositch said.