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Weight Comes Between Women and Cancer Screenings

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Does this study show that overweight women are woefully underserved in getting screening for these cancers? Probably not, Kamran Torbati, MD, tells WebMD. He says the way the study was designed was not ideal for looking at this issue. "Additionally, the differences in rates between the overweight and normal women weren't that drastic. ... I don't think there's a huge conclusion to be made from this study." He is an ob-gyn in private practice in Encino, Calif., and was not involved in the study.

"Future studies should tell us more than how many women received mammography and Pap smears," writes Russell Harris, MD, MPH, in an editorial accompanying the study that urged physicians to take a new approach in patient-physician education. "They should also examine ... how we can reach 100% in effective communication with all of our patients." He is affiliated with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Vital Information:

  • Overweight and obese women are at higher risk for getting breast and cervical cancers, but new research shows that these same women are less likely to receive Pap smears and mammograms, the recommended screening tests.
  • The authors of the study speculate that physicians may have negative attitudes toward their overweight patients, or the patients' low self-esteem may prevent them from seeking care.
  • Among black women, obesity did not affect the rate of Pap smears or mammography, perhaps because weight is less of a stigma in black culture.
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