Background: Substantial subgroups of American women, specifically those of ethnic minorities, have not been screened for cervical cancer or are not screened at regular intervals. The rates for receipt of female-related cancer screening tests remain far below the goals set forth in Healthy People 2010.
Objective: This study applied a well-known, recently revised theoretical model of health care access and utilization, the Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations, to examine the correlates of the adherence to cervical cancer screening guidelines among publicly housed Hispanic and African-American women, two of the most vulnerable segments of our population.
Methods: This study conducted a cross-sectional survey of a community-based random sample of 230 African-American and Latino female heads of household, from a geographically defined area, the three urban public housing communities in Los Angeles County, CA.
Results: Only 62% of our sample had received a screening for cervical cancer within the past year. Yet, 29% of the sample claimed that no health care provider had ever told them that they needed a screening test for cervical cancer. Hispanic and older women are by far less likely to adhere to screening guidelines; in this study, 51% of Hispanics and 22% of African-Americans reported no screening within the last year. Multivariate analysis shows that affordability, continuity of care, and receiving advice from health care providers regarding a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear were significant predictors of up-to-date to cervical cancer screening.
Conclusion: This study documents a significant disparity in screening for cervical cancer among underserved minorities, particularly Hispanic, uninsured, and older women. The continuity of obtaining medical services and receiving recommendations from physicians remain the core factors that are significantly associated with obtaining cervical cancer screening. These results underscore the need for continued efforts to ensure that medically underserved minority women have access to cancer screening services.