Despite a national increase in cervical cancer prevention and treatment, the incidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer among black women remains 41% higher than white women. Lack of access to healthcare among black women living in medically underserved areas prevents early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. However, these numbers could change by introducing innovative community-based care solutions and utilizing technological tools to improve expert-level care.
Less screening, more advanced cancer
Because cervical cancer develops over several years through a series of precancerous lesions, a simple cervical screening can detect patients at high risk of cervical cancer progression early on. However, due to social and economic disparities, many black women do not have access to regular screenings. Screening programs often fail to reach women living in an inner city or rural areas because of lack of transportation, education, health insurance, primary care providers who can perform cervical cancer screenings, or availability of specialists for urgent follow-on care.
Studies reveal the staggering inequalities in cervical cancer incidence and mortality among black women and white women. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in 2014 the rate of death from cervical cancer was highest for black women with a 41% higher mortality rate than that of white women. In addition, the overall five-year relative survival rate for cervical cancer is 58% for black women, compared to 69% for white women.
Many women with cervical cancer were probably exposed to cancer-causing HPV types in their teens and twenties, but, on average, black women do not receive a diagnosis until 51 years of age. That compares to white women who have a median age of cervical cancer diagnosis at 48. Those three crucial years make the difference between a treatable versus terminal cancer.
Why we need to improve cervical cancer screening rates
Increasing screening rates could greatly reduce deaths from cervical cancer among black women. According to the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), “Deaths from cervical cancers could be avoided if cancer screening rates increased among women at risk.” However, this requires the delivery of innovative interventions directly to underserved women such as screenings based at accessible locations closer to their places of residence such as community centers instead of medical clinics. Employing a combined PAP/HPV test and mobile colposcopy approach, with an integrated, portable visualization tool such as the EVA System, is another proven solution for improving care in underserved populations to reduce loss-to-follow-up. This can substantially lower cervical cancer mortality rates among black women through early detection.
Read our report to learn more about the cervical cancer challenges faced by America’s underserved communities, the toolkits and solutions that may be able to bridge this healthcare gap, and how technology can advance broader and more equitable access to care.