Researchers in City of Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education (CCARE) partnered with two local community organizations to increase routine screening for cervical cancer in Southern California’s Inland Empire region.
CCARE joined with Healthy Heritage Movement Inc., a Riverside, Calif.-based organization that promotes good health in the African-American community, and the Quinn Community Outreach Corp., a Moreno Valley, Calif., group that aims to improve health, literacy and education in the Inland Empire. The move marks the first time City of Hope has paired with local nonprofits to use the power of media to promote women’s health testing.
Women mingle at a community health promotion event. (Photo courtesy of CCARE)
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers among women and can easily be prevented through early detection. “Unfortunately, too few women are getting regular screenings, so it remains one of the deadliest cancers to women worldwide,” said Kimlin Tam Ashing-Giwa, Ph.D., founding director of CCARE and professor of population sciences.
The Pap test is the most effective medical test to prevent cervical cancer, Ashing-Giwa explained. It can detect abnormal, precancerous cells sampled through a swab; abnormal tissue can then be removed before it becomes cancerous.
African-American women and Latinas have higher rates of cervical cancer and poorer survival than other women, according to Ashing-Giwa, so CCARE researchers and others want to reach them to promote routine testing.
Women in the Inland Empire — a swath of Southern California including Riverside and San Bernardino counties — have some of the highest cervical cancer rates in the state, leading CCARE to target the area.
CCARE’s surveys in the Inland Empire found that one in three African-American women and one in four Latinas have not had a Pap test in the past two to three years. And 45 percent of African-American women and 34 percent of Latinas reported that their health-care provider failed to recommend a Pap test as part of their health screening in the previous three years.
Through its “End Stigma, End Fear, End Cervical Cancer” initiative in 2011, CCARE and its community partners conducted direct informational mailings and aired public service announcements on local radio stations and other media about Pap testing.
The initiative was successful, boosting awareness and acceptance of Pap testing in the community, Ashing-Giwa said. Many women sought out and got Pap tests, which were coordinated through the local nonprofit organizations.
“For both African-Americans and Latinas, education delivered by community health leaders and health-care providers play important roles in increasing regular use of the Pap test,” Ashing-Giwa said. “Today we have the medical tools to eradicate a deadly cancer — cervical cancer — via the Pap test for early detection and the HPV vaccine for primary prevention; now we must build and implement culturally and linguistically appropriate public health messages and accessible health services to increase the uptake and access to lifesaving health care.”
National guidelines recommend that women start undergoing routine Pap tests every two years starting at age 21. Women age 30 and older can wait three years between screenings if they have had three consecutive clear Pap tests or they had a negative Pap test and negative test for human papillomavirus, the virus that causes most cervical cancers. For information on Pap testing and where to find low-cost screenings, visit www.nccc-online.org.
|Cervical screenings lag |
A recently released study showed that Americans are getting screened for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer at rates far below national targets. In the study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, 83 percent of women said they had gotten a Pap test for cervical cancer within the last three years, short of the 93 percent goal.