Cervical Cancer Is Killing More Women, And More Black Women, Than We Thought

Just in time for the Affordable Care Act repeal, here are some jarring new stats.

By Kat George

In more depressing news this week, it turns out that cervical cancer is actually killing many more women--and disproportionately women of color--in the United States than was initially thought. Womp, better defund Planned Parenthood faster then, Republican Party!

A study published in the Cancer journal on Monday found that black American women are dying from cervical cancer at a similar rate to women in developing countries. Yes, that’s right: black American women, residing in the “land of the free, home of the brave”, are facing the same reproductive health issues as women living in abject poverty. Obviously, no woman on earth should have to face the consequences of cervical cancer, but when the U.S. boasts wealth and espouses freedom and the American Dream, the facts that have come to light become particularly jarring.

The study found that that the mortality rate for black women with cervical cancer is 10.1 per 100,000, as opposed to 4.7 per 100,000 for white women (it was initially believed that the rate was 5.7 for black women and 3.2 for white women, so our perception has been painfully skewed until now). The figures are calculated by assessing how many people are at risk of dying from cervical cancer against those from the same population who actually do die of cervical cancer, and the current study assessed data from 2000-2012. The study did not include women who have had a hysterectomy, a procedure which removes the cervix and therefore eliminates the risk of cervical cancer. More than 4,000 women a year die from cervical cancer annually in the U.S.

The numbers aren’t the worst of it. The most upsetting news came from experts analyzing the research and finding that many of these deaths are easily preventable. Talking to the New York Times, Dr. Kathleen M. Schemler, an associate professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, said, “We have screenings that are great, but many women in America are not getting them. And now I have even more concerns going forward, with the... repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which covers screening, and the closing of family planning clinics, which do much of that screening.”

Another study in the the Gynecologic Oncology journal, looking at a sample of 15,194 patients with advanced cervical cancer, found that over 50 percent of them were not receiving proper treatment or care--and were most likely to be black women in a low socio-economic bracket. This news comes just as the GoP has begun dismantling the Affordable Care Act, Donald Trump has reinstated the Global Gag Rule (which gives us a good indication about where he’s at on protecting access to reproductive health), and as the Republican Party continues their fight to defund Planned Parenthood.

Call it what you will, but the current government’s desire to strip women of access to reproductive health care--when research shows us how essential it is to cure illnesses and avoid preventable deaths--is an act tantamount to violence. Cervical cancer vaccines exist, and the disease is slow spreading, easily detectable, and treatable--when women have access to adequate medical care. As the Trump administration takes a hacksaw to that access, we have to ask ourselves what their culpability is in the lives that are lost as a result. From the best angle, it’s unethical complicity. From the worst, it’s gender-based genocide. Either way, research like this simply reinforces one fact (not to be confused with alternative facts): the current U.S. government has little to no shits to give about protecting the rights and liberties of its female population, especially black women and those in low socio-economic contexts, and certainly isn’t afraid to let us die in order to roll out their hyper-conservative, totalitarian, misogynist agenda.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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