Cervical Cancer: What Every Black Woman Should Know

two women smiling outdoorsCervical cancer is one of the few diseases that’s preventable and curable if detected early. Of the close to 2,000 Black women diagnosed each year, over 40 percent will die. This is unacceptable.  While cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women, Black women tend to have lower 5-year survival rates and die more often than any other race.  And in fact, Black women have twice the cervical cancer mortality rate compared to white women.

Cervical Cancer and Its Impact on African American Women

Cervical cancer forms in the tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope).

Although the rate of new cases of cervical cancer (as well as death from cervical cancer) has declined approximately 50 percent in the United States over the past three decades, the disease remains a serious health threat. Even though the mortality or death rate for African American women with cervical cancer has declined more rapidly than the rate for white women, the African American mortality rate continues to be more than double that of whites. Geographic and socioeconomic-related disparities in cervical cancer mortality (death) also exist.

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Who Should Get Screened…and When?

Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if detected early. Important strategies to reduce the risk of cervical cancer include screening with the Papanicolaou (Pap) and human papillomavirus (HPV) tests, as well as prevention of HPV infection with the HPV vaccine. Researchers have identified HPV, which is transmitted through sexual contact, as the main cause of cervical cancer.