Latina Health: Higher Cervical Cancer Rates Need More Focus & Funding in California


Imagine your doctor tells you it’s cancer—not only that, it could’ve been prevented with a screening test and now, a vaccine. This terrible scenario faces women diagnosed with cervical cancer daily. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 11, 818 cases and 3, 939 deaths from cervical cancer in the United States.

Latinas are particularly affected, with the highest HPV-associated cervical cancer rates. This is partly because Latinas have lower rates of screening using the Pap test, which looks for cervical changes linked to precancer and cancer. In 2010, less Latinas had a Pap test than in 2000.

Latinas are 45% more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, 40% more likely to die according to the 2010 National Vital Statistics Reports (image source).

Why aren’t Latinas getting screened? Many issues exist in the Latino community such as fear of stigma, language barriers and poor communication.

Cervical cancer represents a major health disparity for Latinos, among others (image source).

Cervical cancer is also prevented by vaccination against human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection linked to a variety of cancers besides cervical. Licensed by the FDA in 2006, vaccines like Gardasil are available, but underutilized. Only slightly more than half of teenage girls received this cancer preventing vaccine in 2013—a far cry from the goal of 80% vaccination.

The best way to reverse this trend among Latinas is to focus on promoting Pap tests and vaccinations against HPV. States with a high percentage of Latinas, such as California, must expand funding to women’s healthcare services to specifically target this vulnerable population.

For more information about cervical cancer, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition at (image source).



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3 Responses to “Latina Health: Higher Cervical Cancer Rates Need More Focus & Funding in California”

  1. batchean Says:

    This is a very important issue. In the infographic that you posted, it is interesting to me how significant the disparity was in cervical cancer. While I absolutely agree the increased funding for women’s healthcare services generally, and this population in particular will have an impact, I read that screening was the primary explanation ( and I was curious if that was due to lower access to OBGYN services or lower screening for those who seek service. It may be a way to further target the program.

  2. colleavitt Says:

    Though these statistics don’t surprise me, I am embarrassed to say that I did not know about the cervical cancer disparity…even after years of taking care of Latina populations and their children. I wonder if this is a regional problem, does it dissipate depending on how long a family has been in the US?…1st generation, 2nd generation… Insurance status? Regional or nationwide problem? Worse if a family is moving for work? I would imagine the answer is yes to some of these questions. We always used a registry to track screening.

  3. jegwuagu Says:

    Thanks so much for bringing this important issue to light. I like others that have commented, was not aware of the disparities Latinas face with regard to cervical cancer. Besides stigma and language barriers, what are some of the other issues impacting latina uptake of pap smear screening services (lack of insurance, cultural beliefs, education, awareness)? I agree that increased funding and targeting of women’s healthcare services to populations such as these should be prioritized particularly in states with significant Latino populations. I also wonder what can be done to engage and utilize existing Latino community structures and organizations to increase awareness of this issue. Also, is it possible consider establishing school based STD clinics to expand access to Gardasil and other preventive and testing services to Latino adolescents who might not otherwise utilize such services? I know this is being done in other places such as the City of Alexandria in Virginia and has witnessed improved health outcomes.

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