Age, Insurance & Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer outcomes are better with early diagnosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Catching any cancer before it spreads to vital organs can greatly improve patient outcomes. A woman’s age and whether or not she has health insurance are factors in catching one cancer.

A recent study found that uninsured and/or older women were skipping Pap tests.

As a result, these women didn’t find out they had cervical cancer until it was harder to treat and beat.

"Don't skip Pap smears!"

Stacey Fedewa, MPH, from the Department of Research at the American Cancer Society, led an investigation into the relationship between insurance coverage and cervical cancer diagnosis in the U.S.

For the study, researchers examined the records of nearly 70,000 women between the ages of 21 and 85 who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer between 2000-2007.

The investigators looked at the records in the National Cancer Database.

Researchers were looking for links between insurance coverage, patient age and diagnosis of more advanced cervical cancer – stage III or IV.

Study results found that late stage diagnosis was more common in older women than in younger women. A total of 42 percent of women 70 or older were diagnosed with advanced cervical cancers, compared to 17 percent of women aged 21-34.

Researchers found that the level of insurance coverage also affected when the disease was diagnosed.

Diagnosis of early (stage I, II) cervical cancer occurred in 56 percent of privately insured patients, 40 percent of Medicaid patients and 36 percent of uninsured patients.

Late stage diagnosis happened with 24 percent of privately insured women, 35 percent of women with Medicaid and 35 percent of uninsured women.

Screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer and is done with a simple, fast, cost-effective test in a clinic or doctor’s office.

When detected early, cervical cancer can be effectively treated with great success.

Late detection of cervical cancer puts a patient at a one in three chance that it will spread to nearby organs and a one in 10 chance the cancer will spread to distant organs.

Just over 90 percent of women whose cervical cancer is caught early are still alive after five years. When caught at more advances stages, though, only about 17 percent of women live at least five years after diagnosis.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012, about 12,170 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.

This study will be published in September in the American Journal of Public Health. Funding for this study was provided by the American Cancer Society Intramural Research Department; no conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 28, 2012
Last Updated:
August 30, 2012