Health Equity has reported on health care disparities in diabetes, hypertension, and vitamin D. Unfortunately, significant disparities exist for cancer. Those who are economically disadvantaged suffer an increased risk for late diagnosis and treatment.
What causes these disparities?
It is important to understand the underlying causes of cancer disparities. Research shows that poverty and lack of education are linked with increased risk of cancer mortality. In addition, access to regular health care services, lack of insurance, and behaviors and social conditions associated with poverty such as poor diet and lack of physical activity are also contributors.
When it comes to breast and cervical cancer, the cornerstone of prevention is early detection and early treatment. Survival rates increase the earlier these cancers are detected.
Breast Cancer Disparities
- While Non-Hispanic white women are more likely to get breast cancer, African-American women are 39 percent more likely to die from breast cancer compared to their white counterparts.
Cervical Cancer Disparities
- African-American women are more likely to die from cervical cancer than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
- The 5-year survival rate for cervical cancer is significantly lower for African-American women (62%) when compared to White women (73%).
- For breast cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends that women begin receiving mammograms at age 40, or earlier if there are risk factors such as family history.
- For cervical cancer, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends getting regular pap smears at age 21 or within three years of the first sexual encounter, whichever happens first.
Again, socio-economic disparities are the largest contributing factor to these disparities. Many African-American communities suffer from poverty and poor access to screening and treatment.
Free or affordable screening and follow up care coordination may be available through the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides breast and cervical cancer screening to women in need across the state. Contact the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention at (850) 245-4444 for more information.