Disproportionately for whites, cervical cancer kills black women in the United States

The Rural Southern Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice and Human Rights Watch said the United States is not doing enough to end cervical cancer deaths.

In 2021, an estimated 4,290 women in the United States died of cervical cancer, the two organizations said, including disproportionately large numbers of black women.

The 82-page report documents preventable deaths from cervical cancer in rural Georgia.

It shows how government policies ignore the reproductive health care needs of rural black women, and indicates that cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable.

In 2020, 194 countries worldwide committed to eliminating cervical cancer, the first commitment of its kind related to the fight against cancer.

“Cervical cancer deaths are not just a tragedy, they reveal a systematic exclusion from life-saving health care and information,” said Enrique Daniel, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Rural communities have great difficulty even accessing a doctor, and stark racial disparities in outcomes show a clear pattern of discrimination and neglect,” she says.

According to the study of 148 mostly black women in rural Georgia, racial discrimination and mistrust in the medical field increase the barriers to preventing and treating cervical cancer.

Barriers often encountered include: inability to access consistent and affordable reproductive health care, lack of gynecological care, lack of transportation in rural districts, and lack of information.

Most cases of cervical cancer can be prevented with routine examinations and follow-up. But the women interviewed described struggling to pay for examinations and follow-up care. Because of the cost, many of these women, most of whom do not have health insurance, said they often skip medical appointments or cancer screenings.

“Our interviews reveal the extent to which black women are subjected to the worst neglect and abuse at the hands of some of the least sympathetic physicians who do not treat all patients fairly,” said community human rights researcher Olivia Cooley.

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