The Personal Touch: Ohio Reaches Out to Women Overdue for Cervical Cancer Screening
Staff in the Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Projectexternal icon learned that fewer women were being screened for cervical cancer than for breast cancer in several counties in the state. That number was especially low in Franklin County. In 2019, only 93 women in the county were screened for cervical cancer through the program, while 726 women in the county were screened for breast cancer. This was a matter of concern because more women are eligible for cervical cancer screening than for breast cancer screening.
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Project staff looked at their database to find out which women had been screened for breast cancer in 2019 but had not been screened for cervical cancer in the past five years. They sent a letter to these women explaining the importance of cervical cancer screening and asking them to call and schedule their free test. They included a copy of CDC’s cervical cancer fact sheet with the letter. Spanish translations of the letter and the fact sheet were sent to Hispanic women.
Letters Sent to More Than 900 Women
Between September 2019 and January 2020, staff sent more than 900 letters and called women who did not respond to the letters. “We called each woman on the list,” said Emily Bunt, a researcher at the Ohio Department of Health. “We found that some women had a hysterectomy and did not need a cervical cancer screening. Others had already received their tests outside our program, but their medical records had not been updated. We made sure that the health records of all the women were updated with the information we received.”
The staff were not able to reach 188 women either through the letters or on the phone. They will continue to send them reminders later. An additional 171 women were no longer a part of the program because they had moved out of the state, were no longer eligible, or didn’t want to participate in the program.
Challenges in Scheduling Screening Tests
“Many women were worried about visiting a medical facility during the pandemic,” said Dawn Ingles, Public Health Consultant at the Ohio Department of Health. “This may have resulted in a lower number of women calling to schedule their screening. “It was also hard for us to schedule screening tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. Routine screenings were put on hold for some time during the pandemic and we had to wait to get appointments for screening and follow-up.”
Their efforts resulted in 84 women being screened for cervical cancer. Nine of them had abnormal results and were referred for diagnostic tests. The women who needed treatment were helped through Medicaid.
“It is unlikely that these women would have been screened without this process,” said Ms. Bunt. “It is important to screen women for both breast and cervical cancer and it is easier to look within your own program to identify women who are overdue for cervical cancer screening.”
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Project staff will continue to look at data from all counties to make sure no women miss cervical cancer screening. The program is funded by CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.