January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
Study finds a large number of women with multiple chronic conditions reported not receiving the recommended screening for cervical cancer.
Understanding Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening in Women With Access to Care, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014
RESEARCH BRIEF — Volume 13 — November 10, 2016
Anatasha Crawford, PhD, MPH; Vicki Benard, PhD; Jessica King, MPH; Cheryll C. Thomas, MSPH
Suggested citation for this article: Crawford A, Benard V, King J, Thomas CC. Understanding Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening in Women With Access to Care, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014. Prev Chronic Dis 2016;13:160225. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd13.160225.
Cervical cancer screening can save lives when abnormal cervical lesions and early cancers are detected and treated; however, many women are not screened as recommended. We used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey to examine nonfinancial barriers to cervical cancer screening among women who reported having insurance and a personal doctor or health care provider. Among these women, a higher proportion who were never or rarely screened reported having multiple chronic conditions. The results of this study underscore the importance of incorporating preventive clinical services into the management of one or more chronic conditions.
Widespread use of the Papanicolaou (Pap) test has decreased cervical cancer incidence and deaths. Over half of all new cervical cancers are estimated to occur in women who have never or rarely been screened (1). Limited or no access to health care is a known barrier to screening (2). In a 2012 study of women with no cervical cancer screening in the past 5 years, nearly 70% had health insurance and a regular doctor or health care provider (3). This analysis examines nonfinancial barriers to meeting cervical screening recommendations, focusing on women aged 40 to 65 years who may be seeking other preventive screening (eg, mammogram, colonoscopy) (4).
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey is a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized adult population of the United States (5). Survey data were available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2014.
Women were asked if they had ever had a Pap test and if so, when this test was last performed. We selected women who were aged 40 to 65 years, reported having medical insurance and at least one personal doctor or health care provider, had not had a hysterectomy, and were not pregnant at the time of the survey. In addition to screening with a Pap test alone every 3 years, current cervical cancer screening recommendations include the use of the human papillomavirus (HPV) test with the Pap test every 5 years (4). Because HPV testing rates could not be assessed for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, respondents were categorized as never or rarely screened if they reported never having a Pap test or not having one in more than 5 years to account for the possibility that a woman may have had an HPV test (women aged 30 to 65 years who want to lengthen the screening interval and be screened with a combination of Pap test and HPV test every 5 years). Comparisons were made with women who were up to date with screening (Pap test within 3 years). Respondents who refused to answer or answered “don't know or not sure” were excluded. Eleven chronic conditions (heart attack, heart disease, stroke, asthma, skin cancer, cancer other than skin, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], arthritis, depression, kidney disease, and diabetes) were ascertained by BRFSS and analyzed for this study. BRFSS data were weighted by using advanced raking techniques (6) and were age-adjusted to the 2014 BRFSS population. We performed χ2 testing to compare the characteristics of the respondents across screening history (screened versus never or rarely screened).
All variables were significant (except “asthma now” and cancer other than skin”) when comparing screened versus never or rarely screened women (P < .05) ( Table). Compared with women screened on time, a higher proportion of women never or rarely screened were aged 60 to 65 years (27.6%), Asian/Pacific Islander (7.0%), never married (16.2%), obese (37.3%), current smokers (25.6%), and had an annual income less than $10,000 (11%). A significantly higher proportion of preventive care measures (mammogram [83.2%], clinical breast examination [73.6%], and colorectal cancer screening [69.9%]) were observed among women who received timely cervical cancer screening when compared with women never or rarely screened (P = .001).
Women who were never or rarely screened for cervical cancer had a higher prevalence of ever reporting 1 of 7 chronic conditions: heart disease (4.9%), COPD (13.7%), arthritis (38.1%), depression (31.4%), kidney disease (3.8%), or diabetes (15.4%) than women who were regularly screened (P < .01). Higher proportions of never or rarely screened women also reported having had a heart attack (4.2%) or a stroke (4.5%) in their lifetime than regularly screened women. Women with skin cancer were more likely to be screened for cervical cancer (6.1%, P = .004); however, there was no significant difference (P = .05) in the proportions of women screened for cervical cancer who had had other forms of cancer. A significantly higher proportion of women (P = .001) who were never or rarely screened had more than 1 or 2 chronic conditions (3 or 4 chronic conditions, 16.6%; 5 or more chronic conditions, 3.8%) (Figure). Women screened every 3 years were more likely to have no chronic conditions (48.0%, P = .001).
Figure. Percentage of women aged 40 to 65 years with health insurance and a regular health care provider screened for cervical cancer by Papanicolaou (Pap) test, by number of chronic diseases, BRFSS, 2014. Chronic diseases analyzed were heart attack, heart disease, stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, depression, kidney disease, diabetes, skin cancer, and cancer other than skin. Women who had had a hysterectomy or were pregnant at the time of the survey were excluded. Data were age-adjusted to the 2014 BRFSS population. Screening (once every 3 years) is based on the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for cervical cancer screening. Since HPV testing could not be assessed for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, “on time” is based on having had a Pap test within the past 3 years. Never or rarely screened refers to women who ever had a Pap test in more than 5 years to account for the possibility that a woman may have had an HPV test (women aged 30 to 65 years who want to lengthen the screening interval can be screened with a combination of Pap test and HPV test every 5 years). Data for women screened more than 3 years ago but less than 5 years ago are not shown. Abbreviation: BRFSS, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; HPV, human papilloma virus. [A tabular version of the figure is also available.]
When we examined factors related to cervical cancer screening among women who reported having health insurance and access to a regular doctor or health care provider, a larger proportion of women with multiple chronic conditions reported not receiving the recommended screening for cervical cancer. Our findings were similar to others indicating that insured women with arthritis, diabetes, and myocardial infarction were less likely to be screened for cervical cancer (7–10). In addition, we found that a larger proportion of women with COPD, depression, heart disease, or kidney disease did not adhere to cervical cancer screening recommendations compared with women without these conditions. Studies of women with chronic conditions who received regular health care from primary care physicians and specialists showed similar findings when examining breast and colorectal cancer screening (8,11).
Limitations of this study are not examining younger women who were eligible for screening and using self-reported survey data. Previous studies suggest that age, lack of awareness, lack of transportation, fatalistic health beliefs, low health literacy, poor patient compliance to provider recommendations, and low-quality health care services may prevent insured women with chronic conditions from obtaining timely cervical cancer screening (3,7,12). The primary reason women adhere to timely cancer screening is because of encouragement from a provider; however, disease management for women with multiple chronic conditions is given greater priority than disease prevention (7,9). Additional research is recommended to determine if physicians can effectively balance managing patients’ chronic conditions and ensuring that patients receive recommended preventive care services.
This research was supported in part by the appointment of M.L.S. to the Research Participation Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the US Department of Energy and CDC. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of CDC.
Corresponding Author: Anatasha Crawford, PhD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, 4770 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: 770-488-1089. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Affiliations: Vicki Benard, Jessica King, Cheryll C. Thomas, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Atlanta, Georgia.
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