Age and healthcare access are significant factors

4,000 women die every year from cervical cancer in the United States. Researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore found that cervical cancer deaths and misdiagnoses affect women of color at a disproportionately higher rate than white women. Further, the study shows that the level of care provided to women of color when treating cervical cancer is equivalent to the same care provided in third-world countries.

The mortality rate for black women is 10.1 per 100,000 compared to 4.7 per 100,000 for white women. Researchers trace the discrepancy in care back to insurance coverage, detection methods and the availability of women's social services. Women of color are poorer as a general population than white women and, therefore, may not have access to the same resources when detecting and diagnosing cervical cancer.

HPV vaccines can prevent cervical cancer, but since the vaccine has only been available since 2006, older generations of women both black and white may not have received it. Current guidelines suggest girls and boys as young as nine years old receive the vaccine. Improper detection methods related to age could also be a factor in the high mortality rate among black women.

Presently, women are screened at age 65 for cervical cancer. If two or three tests are negative within a decade, screening stops. However, researchers found that the highest mortality rate for cervical cancer is among black women age 85 or older. Because cervical cancer develops slowly, researchers suggest more sophisticated screenings are conducted over a longer period of time.

Poorer, minority women more often rely on public women's clinics for screening where Pap smears may be unavailable. One doctor quoted in the New York Times reportedly performed total pelvic exenterations on two minority women age 39 and 25 who had never had a Pap smear.

Is there a way to compensate for a misdiagnosis?

While the factors that contribute to higher rates of mortality in black women are perhaps rooted in larger social issues, there still may be a path to compensation for a misdiagnosis of cervical cancer that resulted in the death or disability of you or a loved one.

Although death is more pervasive among black women, each situation is different. Where doctors fail, a medical malpractice attorney can help patients and their loved ones gain access to care and compensation for a misdiagnosis of cervical cancer.

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