Women of color experience greater barriers to preventive care

BOSTON — This week, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) shared new survey data showing the vast majority of women do not know when or how often they should get screened for breast and cervical cancer -- even if they think they do. The nationally representative survey from Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NORC at the University of Chicago explores women’s experiences, knowledge, and beliefs about cervical and breast cancer screenings, as well as the barriers they experience in accessing preventive care.

The survey shows many women aren’t getting screened often enough -- especially women of color -- and many women aren’t aware preventive cancer screenings are covered by insurance without a copay under the Affordable Care Act. The survey also found significant differences among Black and Hispanic women compared to white women in terms of the barriers to getting screened for breast and cervical cancer.

“Planned Parenthood knows firsthand how important cancer screenings are, and we're here to help everyone get the information they need to stay healthy,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of PPLM. “We help our patients understand new recommendations when it comes to well woman visits, Pap tests, the HPV vaccine, and breast exams. Our clinicians clear up any confusion about when you or your loved ones are due for a preventive screening.”

The survey showed confusion among U.S. women about when and how often they should be screened for breast and cervical cancer -- despite a majority of survey respondents saying that they do know:

  • 73% of women said they understand how often women should be checked for cervical cancer. However, only 9% correctly answered that the average 21-29 year old woman should be checked for cervical cancer every 3 years, or that the average 30-64 year old woman should be checked for cervical cancer every 3-5 years.
  • 84% of women said they understand how often women should be checked for breast cancer. However, only 10% correctly answered that the average 21-39 year old woman should be checked for breast cancer every 1-3 years, depending on her history.
  • 23% of women said they did not know when they should next get checked for breast cancer; and 39% of women said they did not know when they should next get checked for cervical cancer.

“The survey shows too many women aren’t getting their recommended cancer screenings -- especially Black and Hispanic women,” Childs-Roshak said. “The unfortunate reality is that overall, women of color in the U.S. face more barriers to health care than white women, and so are less likely to get preventive screenings, more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, and more likely to experience worse health outcomes when it comes to breast and cervical cancer.”

Asked if they have ever been checked for cervical cancer, 19% of women said no and 7% said they weren’t sure. 16% of women said it had been more than five years since their last cervical cancer screening. While 81% of white women said they had been screened, only 64% of black and Hispanic women said they had been screened, making women of color significantly less likely than white women to have ever been checked for cervical cancer.

Asked if they have ever been checked for breast cancer, 16% of women said no and 3% said they weren’t sure. While 87% of white women said they had been screened, only 74% of black women and 69% of Hispanic women said they had been screened, making women of color significantly less likely than white women to have ever been checked for breast cancer.

The survey revealed significant differences in the barriers facing Black and Hispanic women compared to white women when it came to getting screened, including the cost of the test and ability and time to go to a health care provider. For example, when asked what prevented them from getting checked for breast cancer,  

  • 28% of Black women and 40% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that cost of the test was a barrier -- compared to 17% of white women.
  • 23% of Black women and 26% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that time to go to the doctor was a barrier, compared to 14% of white women.
  • 22% of both black women and Hispanic women strongly agreed that distance to the doctor’s office was a barrier, compared to 7% of white women.

Similarly, when asked what prevented them from getting checked for cervical cancer,

  • 32% of Black women and 42% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that cost of the test was a barrier, compared to 19% of white women.
  • 27% of black women and 31% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that time to go to the doctor was a barrier, compared to 18% of white women.
  • 22% of black women and 20% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that distance to the doctor’s office was a barrier, compared to 11% of white women.

This survey also found levels of fear in the test and test results differed between white women and women of color. When asked what prevented them from getting checked for cervical cancer:

  • 29% of both black women and Hispanic women strongly agreed that fear of the test was a barrier, compared to 12% of white women.
  • 40% of black women and 38% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that fear of the results was a barrier, compared to 14% of white women.

When asked what prevented them from getting checked for breast cancer:

  • 28% of black women and 25% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that fear of the test was a barrier, compared to 13% of white women.
  • 38% of black women and 32% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that fear of the results was a barrier, compared to 15% of white women.

As the nation’s leading provider of women’s health care, Planned Parenthood understands that women can put off cancer screenings due to time, cost, anxiety, or not knowing when they’re due for a screening. Although it might feel easier to delay screenings -- especially if you feel healthy -- preventive care is too important to avoid. At Planned Parenthood, we are committed to working with communities to break down the barriers many face in accessing health care, and ensure all people get the high-quality and affordable health care they need, regardless of race, income, geography, citizenship status, or gender identity.

“We hope more women will talk with their loved ones — mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends — about the importance of getting screened for breast and cervical cancer. You can simply ask when the last time they had a check-up was -- and if they aren’t going in for screenings, ask what’s preventing them from getting care,” Childs-Roshak said.

PPLM’s health centers offer a wide variety of preventive health care services, and more than 30,000 patients annually depend on PPLM for affordable, expert health care. Visit plannedparenthood.org to find the health center nearest you.

###

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) is the largest freestanding reproductive health care provider and advocate in the Commonwealth, providing sexual and reproductive health care to more than 30,000 patients per year. PPLM provides a wide range of preventive health care services including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment as well as abortion services. We ensure that women have accurate information about all of their options. For 87 years, PPLM has protected and promoted sexual and reproductive health and rights through clinical services, education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.pplm.org.

Source

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts

Published

August 12, 2016