On March 30, 2020, Eyal Press published an article on the New Yorker about the rise of cervical cancer in Alabama. This article highlights the importance of prevention of cervical cancer through vaccination and early screening. Press follows two women in Alabama at various ages of when they noticed symptoms, received their diagnoses, learned about the programs offered for women of low socio-economic status, and received treatment. The article starts with Tonya Carter, a women 48-year old living in Anniston, AL. Carter was diagnosed with Stage IV B cervical cancer due to a delay in medical attention and treatment related to limited resources. Next, Eyal Press met 38-year old Laquisha Brant whose cervical cancer diagnosis in 2019 dramatically changed her life. The article highlights the difficulties women in rural and low-income areas have accessing medical education, attention, and treatment, often in conjunction with the limitations of health insurance and disease prevention. Both women in the article had not been going to their primary doctors and gynecologists regularly for a variety of reasons, but mainly due to lack of health insurance. Based on over 30 years of data, women typically between the ages of 45 – 49 years have had the highest rate of being diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Frequent screening of cervical cancer is one way to prevent this disease.
At the height of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, hospitals and clinics had to make the decision to put other health concerns and issues on the back-burner to accommodate the rise in patients fighting the virus. Annual checkups and other medical appoints utilized platforms such as Telehealth to adapt to social distance policies while still being able to have face-to-face interactions with their patients. Many screenings and procedures were rescheduled for later dates due to hospitals being at max capacity, and cervical cancer screenings were no different. In an interview with Doctor Silvia De SanJose, MD, PhD on hpvworld.com, the impact the pandemic has had on cervical cancer screening activities was discussed. See an a snippet of the interview below.
“Has the pandemic affected cervical cancer screening activities? Cervical cancer screening programs have been curtailed almost everywhere worldwide. Many of my collaborators in low resource settings have re-allocated their screening personnel or the staff members have been sent home because of various levels of lockdown. Cancer screening has temporarily stopped being a priority […]
Should we still promote cervical cancer screening during the pandemic?
[…] The screening visit aims to protect her in the years to come; cervical cancer typically takes years to develop and a brief delay in screening will impact a small fraction of women. In this case there is not a priori an emergency and most likely, for most women, that visit could be safely postponed. However, considering that SARS-CoV-2 will prevail worldwide for an extended period of time, we need to design, as much as possible, an environment for such screening visits […]”
In short, cervical cancer should still be a priority. New methods that allow for the safety of cervical cancer screenings in the midst of the pandemic should be sought out, ones that emphasize accessibility, effectiveness, safety, and comfort for patients.
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