Monday, July 20, 2009

Should a Pap Smear cost so much?

A caller today says: “I had an abnormal Pap smear in 2006 and I haven’t been able to get it repeated. I don’t have insurance and now I am bleeding all the time, what should I do”

About the same time I’m talking to her, I am reading through my e-mails and here is today’s news: “Only a handful of screening tests have been proven to significantly reduce death among certain age groups: pap tests to screen for cervical cancer beginning no later than age 21; mammograms to screen for breast cancer starting at age 40; and colon cancer screening beginning at age 50. According to the CDC, there is no medical proof that routine screening for many other cancers -- including ovarian cancer -- reduces deaths.[[July 20, 2009, NYT].”

The cervical cancer death rate declined in the U.S. by 74% between 1955 and 1992-- because we have Pap screening in the U.S. That is to say, insured women have access to Pap screening, others might. Depends on where they live, how dedicated to women’s health care her local health department is, whether she wants to feed her kids, etc. As I posted on our website, a Gallup survey this year showed that 1 in 7 women have cut costs by postponing her annual gynecology checkup. Our clinic is surveying local ob/gyn groups to determine the out-of-pocket cost locally if a woman is uninsured. The lowest, bare-bones cost we have found thus far is $150.00. For a Pap Smear only, any other testing including, STD testing, cholesterol, glucose, urine, anything else is extra. That is about a week’s take-home pay for our minimum wage workers, which Georgia’s women often are, if they are working at all. Yes, screening for cervical cancer saves lives and saves money, so why is it so hard for Georgia women to get screened?

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