By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Jan. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- The number of women in the United States who are getting the recommended screenings for cervical cancer is "unacceptably low," researchers say.
In 2016, just over half of U.S. women aged 21 to 29 and less than two-thirds of women aged 30 to 65 were up-to-date with cervical cancer screenings, according to a new report.
Those rates are well below the 81 percent self-reported rate in the 2015 U.S. National Health Interview Survey, said study author Dr. Kathy MacLaughlin, and her colleagues. MacLaughlin is a family medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.
"Routine screening every three years with a Pap test or every five years with a Pap-HPV co-test [the current guidelines for average-risk women] ensures precancerous changes are caught early and may be followed more closely or treated," MacLaughlin explained in a Mayo Clinic news release.
The study also found significant racial differences in cervical cancer screening rates.
"African-American women were 50 percent less likely to be up-to-date on cervical cancer screening than white women in 2016. Asian women were nearly 30 percent less likely than white women to be current on screening. These racial disparities are especially concerning," MacLaughlin said.
For their study, the researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 47,000 women in Olmsted County, Minn., from 2005 to 2016.
MacLaughlin said the findings show the need for new ways to increase cervical cancer screening rates, such as Pap clinics with evening and Saturday hours, offering cervical cancer screenings at urgent care clinics, and at-home testing kits for HPV (human papillomavirus), the virus that causes most cervical cancers.
"We, as clinicians, must start thinking outside the box on how best to reach these women and ensure they are receiving these effective and potentially lifesaving screening tests," she said.
The findings were published Jan. 7 in the Journal of Women's Health.
About 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.