Cervical cancer screening programs for women are hindered by government disorganization, according to research presented at the American Public Health Association’s meeting on November 3. Uncoordinated and complicated health systems prevent women from getting cervical cancer screening and treatment, reports study co-author Beth Meyerson, Ph.D., of Indiana University.
Fifteen professionals working in the area of cervical cancer prevention were interviewed to assess state cervical cancer efforts in the U.S. Researchers found that the complexity of state health systems significantly affected the successful operation of cervical cancer screening programs.
“Eligibility conflicts between and among programs and the resulting patient navigation issues were reported as barriers to treatment access and completion,” said Meyerson. She explained that in some situations women are screened and diagnosed by one program, but are not eligible for the other program that provides treatment.
Study participants also described problems with coordination within individual states. Government agencies did not work together on common issues involving cervical cancer. Although states have cancer control programs, participants reported that cervical cancer was not viewed as a priority in these programs.
Meyerson and her colleagues also found that funding was an issue for state breast and cervical cancer screening programs (BCCP). In many states, BCCP funding was used up before the program was due to receive new funds. In those situations, programs had to turn away women who were eligible for screening.
Meyerson thinks an advocacy agenda promoting cervical cancer screening would help states recognize the need to improve inter-agency and program cooperation. This type of health system organization will require strong leadership to be effective.
Cervical cancer overview
Cervical cancer occurs when "abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control," according to WebMD. It is often caused by some strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This virus is sexually transmitted.
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- Irregular bleeding
- Pain during sex
- Bloody vaginal discharge
Cervical cancer is diagnosed through a pap smear and colposcopy. It is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Women can reduce their risk of getting cervical cancer by having regular pap smears, getting the HPV vaccine (if age 26 and under) and quitting smoking. More information about cervical cancer is available from the Mayo Clinic and WebMD.
Telephone interview with Dr. Beth E. Meyerson, Ph.D.