Millions of Women Not Screened for Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer rates declined, but millions of women did not have Pap test, according to CDC

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Pap tests have saved many lives by detecting cervical cancer early. But, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of women may not be getting screened for this disease.

A CDC report released Nov. 5 showed that the rate of cervical cancer cases had decreased in the past five years. The death rate, however, remained about the same over that time period, according to the CDC.

But the report also concluded that millions of women were not screened for cervical cancer in the past five years.

"Every visit to a provider can be an opportunity to prevent cervical cancer by making sure women are referred for screening appropriately," said Ileana Arias, PhD, CDC principal deputy director, in a press release. “We must increase our efforts to make sure that all women understand the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer. No woman should die from cervical cancer.”

Vicki B. Benard, PhD, of the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, and colleagues wrote the report.

The Pap test was developed in the 1950s as a screening test for cervical cancer. In the Pap test, cells from the cervix are examined under a microscope to check for cancerous changes.

Current American Cancer Society guidelines recommend that women ages 21 to 29 have a Pap test every three years. The guidelines recommend a Pap test and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years from ages 29 to 65. Some types of HPV have been tied to cervical cancer.

The authors of the report studied data from 2007 to 2011. From the data, the CDC team estimated that more than 8 million women between ages 21 and 65 in the US had not been screened for cervical cancer during those years.

About 1 in 10 women aged 21 to 65 were not screened during the five years of data reviewed, the authors found. Around 1 in 4 women who were not screened lacked health insurance and 1 in 4 lacked a primary doctor.

The data showed that the incidence of cervical cancer dropped about 2 percent each year from 2007 to 2011, but the death rate from cervical cancer remained stable at 2.3 deaths per 100,000 women.

Women in the South had the highest cervical cancer death rate — at 2.7 deaths per 100,000 women — and fewer women were screened for cervical cancer in that region.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that 11- or 12-year-old children get immunized against HPV infection. The 2013 National Immunization Survey reported that only 38 percent of young girls and 14 percent of young boys received the HPV vaccine.

The authors of the report disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 6, 2014
Last Updated:
November 7, 2014