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Majority of women in Ontario prisons are overdue for cervical cancer screening — much more than the general public


More than half of women imprisoned in Ontario are overdue for cervical cancer screening at the time of their admission to jail, and more than 1/3 remained overdue for screening three years later, according to a new study by researchers at ICES and McMaster University.

The Ontario Cervical Screening Program recommends that women who are or have been sexually active have a Pap test every three years starting at age 21. Regular screening should continue until at least age 70 or when advised by a doctor or nurse practitioner to stop.

The study published today in the journal, JAMA Network Open, found that 53.9 per cent of the 4,553 women in the prison group were overdue for cervical cancer screening compared to 32.9 per cent of the 3,647,936 women in the general population.

“Screening reduces the incidence of cervical cancer and mortality from cervical cancer, since screening identifies changes in cervical cells at an early stage so we can intervene to prevent progression to cancer,” says Dr. Fiona Kouyoumdjian, the lead author on the study, a scientist at ICES and McMaster University and a part-time family doctor at an Ontario jail.

The researchers point to competing priorities that may contribute to the lack of cervical cancer screening in the prison population such as other health issues, housing and employment challenges, and family responsibilities.

Previous research has shown that women in Canada and the US who spend time in prison are at increased risk of cervical cancer compared to the general population. So this population may benefit even more than the general population from screening.

“We need to promote cervical cancer screening and improve access to screening for women who spend time in jail,” says Kouyoumdjian.

Author block: Fiona G. Kouyoumdjian, Andres McConnon, Emma R. S. Herrington, Kinwah Fung, Aisha Lofters and Stephen W. Hwang.

The article “Cervical cancer screening access for women who experience imprisonment in Ontario, Canada: a population-based retrospective cohort study,” is published in the December 7 issue of the JAMA Network Open.

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

For more information, please contact:

Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

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