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Cervical cancer screenings lower than national data suggests

January 8, 2019

A study of Olmsted County women suggests that the percentage of women who are screened for cervical cancer may be much lower than national data says.

The Mayo Clinic study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health this morning, found that less than half of women ages 21 to 29 were up-to-date with their cervical cancer screenings in 2016.

Less than two-thirds of the women ages 30-65 were up-to-date on theirs.

“These cervical cancer rates are unacceptably low,” Mayo Clinic family medicine specialist Kathy MacLaughlin, M.D., the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “Routine screening every three years with a Pap test or every five years with a Pap-HPV co-test ensures precancerous changes are caught early and may be followed more closely or treated.” Dr. Robert Jacobson is a co-author.

Additionally, African-American women were only half as likely to be up-to-date on their screenings as white women across the board. Asian women were nearly 30 percent less likely to be current in their screenings than white women.

Pap smears, or Pap tests, are used to detect cervical cancer by collecting cells from women’s cervixes and examining them under a microscope to look for cancerous or precancerous cells. A second type of cervical cancer screening, called the HPV test, detects high-risk HPV, which can lead to cervical and other types of cancers.

Medical records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project database were used to determine the screening rates for more than 47,000 women living in Olmsted County between 2005 and 2016.

The 2015 National Health Interview Survey reported that 81 percent of women were up-to-date on cervical cancer screenings.

In the press release, MacLaughlin suggested that health care providers set up Pap clinics with evening/weekend hours, or offer cervical cancer screenings at urgent care clinics to improve access.

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