While Black women are more likely to have a late-stage diagnosis of cervical cancer and one and a half times more likely to die of the disease than white women, the five-year survival rate for the survival rate is over 90%, according to a study from the Human Rights Watch and the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice.
Even though the survival rate is high, about 4,290 women died of cervical cancer in 2021 alone, an inordinately high number were Black women.
The study, which was based in rural Georgia, found racial disparities in cervical cancer deaths at a rate that got worse with age.
Annerieke Daniel, a women’s rights researcher at HRW, said there are many reasons why Black women have a worse experience in healthcare, and therefore are deterred from seeking care.
Among those reasons are insurance and healthcare affordability, a lack of comprehensive sexual health education, as well as historic mistreatment of minorities at the hands of medical professionals.
“It’s generational,” Daniels says. “We had researchers who we worked with who spoke about the reasons why their own grandparents and their aunts did not go see doctors, and did not encourage them to go see doctors. And this is passed down.”
“So when you talk about a Black woman who might have been mistreated by a medical provider, who had an extremely demeaning experience that has turned her off, this has implications not only upon her health, but also upon the health of those around her who might also, for the same reasons, do not want to go seek out gynecological care,” she says.
Daniel says it is important to address how these biases could have long-term ramifications for communities’ health.
Cervivor, a non-profit cervical cancer organization, was created by a Black woman and it serves to support those affected by the disease.
According to NPR, Tamika Felder, the founder of Cervivor who also got her cervical cancer diagnosis at 25, created the non-profit organization to connect with people who were going through a similar situation as her own and to highlight how underrepresented Black women are.