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Cervical Health Awareness Month calls attention to women’s health and gynecologic screenings

Recent survey suggests the pandemic and an ongoing information gap have taken a toll on women getting their appointments "back on the books."

January 4, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kyra Meister
703-836-1746
kyra.meister@preventcancer.org

Alexandria, Va. – January is Cervical Health Awareness Month as designated by the United States Congress. (Some organizations also recognize this as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.) Each year, more than 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer—cancer that has spread from the surface of the cervix to tissue deeper in the cervix or to other body parts—and more than 4,200 die from the disease.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries. With the availability of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, we can protect against the virus that causes more than 90% of cervical cancers. An HPV test can also detect the presence of this virus before cancer develops. By screening with a Pap test (alone or in conjunction with an HPV test), your doctor can detect precancerous conditions in the cervix, or detect the cancer in early stages. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.

But an August 2021 survey released by Prevent Cancer Foundation® indicates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased hesitation among women to attend routine, potentially lifesaving cancer screenings.

 Twenty-six percent of women and people assigned female at birth did not schedule a cervical cancer screening during the pandemic. Of those that did not schedule a cervical cancer screening, 31% attributed it to worry about being exposed to the coronavirus.

And it’s not just the pandemic that’s keeping women away from the doctor. Nearly a quarter of women (24%) ages 40 to 60 say it’s been more than 3 years since their last appointment with their OB/GYN or primary care provider. Additionally, nearly 40% of women reported having worries about feeling pain or discomfort and/or feelings of awkwardness during a routine cervical cancer examination.

But there is good news. With vaccines for COVID-19 readily available, women are reporting that they now feel more comfortable scheduling doctors’ appointments, and 65% of women said in August that they planned to prioritize scheduling cervical screenings before the beginning of 2022.

The survey findings also show an information gap also contributes to women not receiving lifesaving preventive health care. Half of women in the U.S. between the ages of 21 and 60 don’t know how often they should be screened for cervical cancer. The numbers are particularly disconcerting for younger women and women of color:

  • 62% of women ages 21-24 say they don’t know how often they should be screened for cervical cancer.
  • 53% of women ages 25-34 say they don’t know how often they should be screened for cervical cancer.
  • The majority of white women (53%) say they do know how often they should be screened for cervical cancer, but the numbers are reversed for women of color, with 53% of Black women, 53% of Latina women and 57% of Asian women saying they don’t know how often they should be screened for cervical cancer.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation is fielding an additional survey to learn more about the patterns behind individuals’ habits and their knowledge about routine cancer screenings. Results will be available in early 2022. Women can find more information about early detection and cancer screenings and learn more about cervical cancer by visiting the Prevent Cancer Foundation website.

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About the Prevent Cancer Foundation® 

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is celebrating 35 years as the only U.S. nonprofit organization focused solely on saving lives across all populations through cancer prevention and early detection. Through research, education, outreach and advocacy, we have helped countless people avoid a cancer diagnosis or detect their cancer early enough to be successfully treated.

The Foundation is rising to meet the challenge of reducing cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing $20 million for innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, $10 million to expand cancer screening and vaccination access to medically underserved communities, and $10 million to educate the public about screening and vaccination options. For more information, please visit www.preventcancer.org.

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