NEW YORK CITY – May 11, 2006 – One in five New York City women are not getting timely cervical cancer screenings (Pap tests), according to a report released today by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Women between 18 and 24 years of age, women 65 and older, and low-income women are least likely to get timely Pap tests. In 2004, 126 New York City women died from cervical cancer – 70% of those deaths occurred among women aged 50 or older, and virtually all of them could have been prevented with screening and treatment. The full report is available online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/survey/survey-2006cervicalcancer.pdf.
To prevent cancer of the cervix (the opening of a woman’s uterus), DOHMH and other public health and clinical authorities recommend that women get a Pap test every 1 to 3 years. The report, Cervical Cancer Screening in New York City, revealed that there are certain groups of women who are less likely to get screened:
- More than twice as many uninsured women go without a regular Pap test as insured women (31% vs. 15%). Also, 29% of women who do not have a regular doctor do not get screened regularly, as compared to 18% of women with a regular provider.
- Women aged 65 and older are twice as likely not to get a regular Pap test as women aged 25-64 (31% vs. 14%).
- Nearly twice as many foreign-born women report not having had a regular Pap test as women born in the U.S. Those least likely to get regular Pap tests include women born in India (48% did not get screened), North or South Korea (46%), and China (43%).
- Asian women are the most likely to go without a timely Pap test (40%), at nearly twice the rate of white women (21%).
- Women living below the poverty level are more likely not to get regular Pap tests than those with higher incomes (26% vs. 14% among those living at the highest income level).
- Single women and women with lower levels of education are more likely to go without timely screening (22% of single women and 23% of women without a high school education).
- Women without a current sexual partner are twice as likely not to get recommended screenings as those with a partner (28% vs. 14%).
"Pap tests save lives," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "Cervical cancer is preventable if women are screened every 1 to 3 years and get follow up treatment, if necessary. Cervical cancer is also curable in the early stages, but often causes no symptoms and can only be detected by a test such as a Pap test. Women should call their regular healthcare provider or call 311 about getting a cervical cancer screening."
When asked why they do not get a Pap test screening, approximately one-third (32%) of women responded that they had no particular reason. Nearly one-fifth (18%) said they did not think they needed the test or a doctor never told them it was necessary. Eight percent cited cost as a reason, including not having medical coverage to pay for the test.
The primary known cause of cervical cancer is the human Papilloma virus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 100 types of HPV, only a few of which cause cancer in the cervix. The virus often has no symptoms, so people may unknowingly transmit HPV to their sexual partners. Having multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex increases a woman's risk of getting HPV. Using condoms can reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
Get Checked for Cancer – A Take Care New York Priority
As part of the citywide health policy Take Care New York, New Yorkers are urged to get checked for cancer. DOHMH is committed to reducing the proportion of women who do not receive timely Pap tests to 15% by 2008.
Women should know cervical cancer screening guidelines. Pap tests save lives!
- Pap test recommendations:
- Have an initial Pap test within 3 years of first sexual activity or at age 21 — whichever comes first.
- Subsequent cervical cancer screening should occur every year, until the woman has 2 to 3 negative tests in a row.
- After that, screening should continue every 2 to 3 years at least until age 65.
- Women older than 65 should discontinue Pap testing only after they have had several negative tests and are not otherwise at risk for cervical cancer.
- Women living with HIV/AIDS should have a Pap test every 6 months until they have at least 2 negative Pap tests in a row, at which time Pap tests should continue at least every year.
- A woman who has had a total hysterectomy (in which the cervix was removed) no longer needs Pap tests, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical abnormalities or cancer.
Free pelvic exams and cervical cancer screenings are available at DOHMH’s STD (sexually transmitted disease) Clinics. For hours and locations, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/std/std2.shtml or call 311. The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) also offers low and no-cost screenings at public hospitals and clinics citywide.
About the Report
Data presented in this report are based on results of the NYC Community Health Survey 2002–04, the annual telephone survey of adult New Yorkers, and the Citywide Health Survey, Spring 2003. For full survey details, please visit http://nyc.gov/html/doh/html/survey/survey.shtml.