Study Finds 'Glaring Racial Disparities' In Cervical Cancer Deaths Among Black Women

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A new study confirms that Black women are at higher risk of death due to cervical cancer than their white counterparts due to late diagnoses and lack of preventative care

Even though cervical cancer now has a five-year survival rate of more than 90 percent, a new study has confirmed that those who are most vulnerable to the disease’s most devastating impacts are Black women, who are more likely to receive a late-stage diagnosis and are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to die than their white counterparts — a heartbreaking reality that sheds light on the racial disparities in healthcare that prevent Black women from accessing, seeking, and receiving the care they need and deserve in this country.

The alarming — but sadly unsurprising — stats came out of a joint report released by the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), with both organizations teaming up with nine community-based researchers in Georgia to document factors contributing to disproportionate cervical cancer death rates for Black women.

Researchers carried out 148 interviews with Black women between the ages of 18 and 82 living primarily in 3 rural southwest counties in Georgia, including Baker, Coffee, and Wilcox. During the interviews, participants described the challenges they face in accessing reproductive healthcare services and information to prevent and treat cervical cancer — shining light on the overall medical racism that Black women face not just when it comes to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, but also for other reproductive health concerns, including pregnancy and gynecological care.

Cervical cancer, in particular, is easily preventable thanks to the HPV vaccine, which drastically reduces the chances of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV) — the virus responsible for more than 95 percent of cervical cancer cases.

Georgia’s healthcare system is failing Black women on this front at every angle, with the study finding that Black Georgian women are more likely than white women to not undergo potentially life-saving cancer screenings, receiving diagnoses at a later stage, and therefore lowering their five-year survival rates. In a country with the amount of resources we have, it’s unacceptable at every level that anyone is denied proper preventative care and treatment for any health concern, but especially one with such a high survival rate.

The researchers summed it up best in the report, writing, “These preventable deaths also represent a failure of the federal, state, and local governments to protect and promote human rights for all people and to ensure adequate and affordable access to the lifesaving reproductive healthcare services and information all people need and have a right to.” Check out the full report here for more info. The only way to eliminate cervical cancer completely is by ensuring equitable access to life-saving screenings, vaccines, and care, and there are so many women still facing an entirely preventable late-stage diagnosis because of these unacceptable disparities.