INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Cervical cancer is preventable, however experts say thousands of women each year in the United States are diagnosed with it. Many of those women are minorities.
Doctors say there isn’t anything particular in the DNA of minority women that makes them more susceptible to cervical cancer. It often boils down to socieoeconomic status. Poorer people tend to have less access to vital health services like yearly pelvic exams.
The human pappilomavirus (HPV) is something any woman of any age can be exposed to. If HPV is left un-checked it can turn into cervical cancer.
“Here in the United States we maybe have 14,000 cases a year but again in the world there’s over half 1 million,” said Dr. Tina Ayeni with Franciscan Health.
Ayeni is a gynecologic oncology surgeon at Franciscan Health. She said in the last 30-40 years, medicine has helped minimize cases of cervical cancer but it’s still a risk.
In the U.S,, white women make up the majority of the female population. However Hispanic and black women outrank them in cervical cancer cases. Asians and American Indians aren’t far behind.
But Ayeni said the reason isn’t something found in a minority’s DNA. Instead it’s skipping out on pelvic exams and pap smears which identify infected cells.
“For most women this is not a cancer that you get exposed and it pops up within a year that virus can be dormant,” Ayeni said. “It kind of goes to sleep in your system and it’s not really clear what causes the virus to activate.”
Having insurance and the ability to pay is also often a barrier for some to access pelvic exams. In other cases, Dr. Ayeni said some women may assume that because they’ve reached a certain age the threat is gone.
“Even if you had a hysterectomy in the past even if you’re not having any symptoms, that physical exam, pelvic exam every year is so important.”