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Early Detection of Cervical Cancer Faces Economic Barriers
Tuesday. January 22, 2008

Axler, Francine
(215) 985-2521

Early Detection of Cervical Cancer Faces Economic Barriers

PHMC Recognizes January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Philadelphia-- Since the Pap test was introduced more than 50 years ago, deaths from cervical cancer in the United States have dropped by 75 percent. However, economic factors, including poverty and lack of health insurance, still prevent many women from obtaining Pap tests. Today, cervical cancer is most often found among women who have never had the benefit of a Pap test or have gone many years without one. In the U.S. the disease disproportionately impacts poor women.

According to a report released this month by the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC) in recognition of January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, many women in the region widely recognize cervical cancer screening via the Pap test as an important health behavior.  The report, Cervical Cancer Screenings Among Women in SEPA, based on data from PHMC’s 2006 Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Household Health Survey, shows that 85% of SEPA women aged 18-64 years received a Pap test within the preceding two years. However, it also shows that screening rates were lower among poor and uninsured women. 


To prevent cervical cancer, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other public health and clinical authorities recommend that women receive a Pap test every 1 to 3 years, depending upon their age and risk factors. PHMC’s report, which covered women 18-64 years old, revealed that there are certain groups of women who are less likely to obtain screening due to economic factors.


·         Women living below 150% of the federal poverty level in SEPA are nearly twice as likely as women at or above the poverty level to have received their last pap test more than two years ago (23% and 13%, respectively).


·         SEPA women with no public or private insurance are nearly three times as likely to have received their last Pap test more than two years ago: 34% of uninsured women did not receive a Pap test in the past two years, compared with 13% of insured women.


·         Poor women in some SEPA Counties are less likely to have received a Pap test than poor women in other SEPA Counties: 34% of poor women in Bucks County did not receive a Pap test within the last two years, compared with Delaware (32%), Montgomery (23%), Philadelphia (20%) and Chester (19%) Counties.


·         Uninsured suburban women are more likely than uninsured women in Philadelphia to have not received a Pap test within the last two years: 41% (Bucks), 40% (Montgomery), 34% (Delaware), 34% (Chester), and 31% (Philadelphia).


 "Pap tests can help save lives," says Donna Brian, C.R.N.P., Ph.D., a nurse practitioner at PHMC’s Health Connection health center, located in North Philadelphia.  "Cervical cancer is largely preventable if women are screened every one to three years and receive follow up treatment if necessary. The disease often causes no symptoms and can only be detected through screenings such as the Pap test--but it can be highly curable in the early stages. Women should contact their regular healthcare provider about getting a cervical cancer screening,” says Brian, adding that all of PHMC’s health centers provide Pap test and other routine screenings to all community residents, regardless of their ability to pay.


In addition to the Health Connection, PHMC’s network of nurse-managed primary care health centers include Rising Sun Health Center in Northeast Philadelphia, Mary Howard Health Center, Philadelphia’s only primary care center for the homeless; and Project Salud in Chester County.  


While economic factors represent the greatest barriers, the report also indicated that ethnicity, level of education, access to a regular source of health care, and number of sexual partners can all show correlation with the percentage of women receiving the recommended screening. For more information or to view the full report, visit www/ or contact Francine Axler at (215) 985-2521 or


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About PHMC

The Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that builds healthier communities through partnerships with government, foundations, business and other community-based organizations. It fulfills its mission to improve the health of the community by providing outreach, health promotion, education, research, planning, technical assistance, and direct services. PHMC has served the Greater Philadelphia region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit


The Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey is the largest local health survey in the country, covering Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Conducted every two years by PHMC’s Community Health Data Base Project (CHDB), the survey provides timely data on more than 13,000 children and adults in SEPA and is used by health care providers across the region to plan programs, market services, and assess needs. CHDB is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The William Penn Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and a variety of participating agencies from the health, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors.