January is Cervical Cancer Month

Posted on January 7, 2010. Filed under: Family Therapy, Health, Public Health | Tags: , , , |

I am going to stray away from my current thread on Housing Quality and discuss an important public health issue for women.  January is Cervical Cancer month for the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.  The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that there will be over 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer and over 4,000 women will die from this cancer.  Many women will not have symptoms which is why the NCI recommends women getting their first pap smear within 3 years of first experience of sexual intercourse or at the age of 21.  This type of cancer is easily detected and has a high cure rate if detected early. In addition, there are preventive measures that women can take to decrease their chances of developing cervical cancer.

And while the population cure rate is high for cervical cancer, there are some racial and economic disparities associated with cervical cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), NCI, and Garner (2003):

  • Cervical cancer has a higher incidence in Latinas, (twice the rate of non-Hispanic women).
  • African American women develop Cervical Cancer 50% more than non-Hispanic women and twice as likely to die from it.
  • Women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds get diagnosed at later stages and have a higher mortality.
  • Vietnamese women have the highest incidence.
  • Immigrant women have low rates of screening related to language barriers, mistrust of medical system, and cultural beliefs (e.g., modesty).

These disparities can be contributed to lack of access to care, mistrust of the healthcare system, patient cultural beliefs, or providers not asking the right questions.

As mental health practitioners we have the unique opportunity to inform our clients, their families, our communities about issues that directly affect their care.  As we work with our clients this month, I ask that we ask  questions to raise awareness.  We can ask women if they talk to their health care provider about cervical cancer.  We can ask women when they had their last pap smear.  We can inform women that January is Cervical Cancer month and give them resources for them to explore these issues (listed below).  We can ask men in relationships with women to raise this issue with their partners.  We can ask parents to talk to their daughters about the importance of early detection and preventive measures.  As noted above, we might be working with women who don’t have access to health care or don’t trust their health care.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program so that underserved women can have access to care.  Click on the early detection program link to find a local program.

Again, these questions usually don’t take much time and if they do maybe you stumbled upon an important therapeutic issue.  These questions also convey a wholistic approach to our clients.  That we are interested in the range of their experiences that can affect their lives.  I look forward to any comments, suggestions, or stories that you might want to share.  Take care.



American Cancer Society: Learn about Cervical Cancer

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Cervical Cancer Page

Cervical Cancer: What Vietnamese Women Should Know

Garner, E.I.O. (2003). Cervical cancer: Disparities in Screening, Treatment, and Survival. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention March 2003 12; 242s

General Information About Cervical Cancer (Healthcare Provider Version)

General Information About Cervical Cancer (Patient Version)

General Information About Cervical Cancer (Patient Version-Spanish)

National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

National Cancer Institute: Cervical Cancer Home Page

National Cancer Institute: Cervical Cancer Home Page in Spanish

National Cervical Cancer Coalition Home Page

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