Healthcare Inequity: Cervical Cancer Care in Georgia

There are many inequities in our society, and many of these exist within the healthcare sphere. In this article, we’re specifically going to look at the inequity that Black women in Georgia face concerning cervical cancer. The situation in Georgia is reflective of a much larger problem; in fact, Black women are significantly more likely to die from cervical cancer in comparison to white women across the nation.

Cervical Cancer Care in Georgia

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that cervical cancer has a five-year survival rate of 93% when it’s caught early, making it highly treatable. So why are over 4,000 women in the United States dying from it each year? And why is this mortality rate more than twice as high for Black women?

A report from Human Rights Watch points to the broken healthcare system as the cause of this inequity. It looks at pap smears – which are annual exams that can spot cervical cancer – and their inaccessibility in Georgia. Black women from this state, especially the rural areas, are much less likely to undergo these screenings, therefore they are also less likely to be diagnosed.

We already mentioned that the five-year survival rate is 93% with early diagnosis, but this is not the case for Georgia. In fact, this rate for Black women from Georgia was 57% as of 2018. The rate for white women was 65%. So what are some of the reasons behind this?

Human Rights Watch Report

For this report, 148 Black women from Georgia were interviewed in order to find the reasons behind this disparity. Some of these reasons were:

  • There is no OB-GYN in almost half of Georgia’s counties
  • Over 250,000 residents of the state are uninsured
    • Georgia also has not expanded Medicaid
  • Seven hospitals in rural areas have closed in the past twelve years
    • 38 delivery and labor units have closed in the past 28 years
  • Distrust in the healthcare system
  • Stigma and discrimination
  • Low awareness and little to no information

In the end, the report sums up this situation as “a human rights failure.” Cervical cancer is highly preventable (the HPV vaccine greatly reduces one’s risk) and treatable, there is no reason that so many women should be dying from it, and no reason that it disproportionately impacts Black women to such a degree.

About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer happens in the cervix, which is the bottom portion of the uterus that connects to the vagina. In the earlier stages of this cancer, patients are typically asymptomatic. As it progresses, symptoms grow to include pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, vaginal bleeding, and abnormal discharge that may be watery, bloody, heavy, and foul-smelling. Medical professionals are unsure as to how exactly this cancer begins, but they know that the human papillomavirus (HPV) plays a role. This is not to say that HPV causes cervical cancer; many people contract it and never develop the disease. Instead, it is believed that environmental and genetic components also play a role.

There are practices that can lower one’s risk of this cancer, and they include getting an HPV vaccine, practicing safe sex, abstaining from smoking, and getting regular Pap tests. If one does develop cervical cancer, treatment options include surgery, radiation, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care.

Find the source article here.

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