According to a recent study published in The Lancet Public Health, women with a history of neuropsychiatric disability, mental illness, or substance abuse are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, as they are less likely to undergo gynaecological screening tests. The study highlights the importance of actively engaging these women as a preventive measure against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer affects the cervix, the bottom portion of the uterus which leads to the vagina. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted virus. Cervical cancer is ranked as the fourth most prevalent cancer among women. In 2018, approximately 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer globally, and it resulted in the death of around 311,000 women.
The World Health Organization (WHO) approved a comprehensive global strategy in May 2020 to eliminate cervical cancer as a women's health issue. This strategy includes the target of screening at least 70 percent of women for cervical cancer at least once before they reach the age of 35, and twice before they reach 45 years old. The WHO's global strategy for cervical cancer prevention emphasizes the significance of proactive screening to detect and treat the disease at an early stage.
The researchers have identified the inequality of care as a major obstacle in achieving the goal of eliminating cervical cancer. They have emphasised the need to provide extra attention to a high-risk group to achieve this objective.
The study reveals that the highest risk was seen in women with substance abuse issues. The researchers suggest that women with mental illness should be informed and made aware of the importance of regular gynaecological screenings.
The study can be considered to be reliable due to the large number of participants and the long period of time they were studied. However, the researchers did not have complete information on other factors that could increase the risk of cervical cancer, such as use of hormonal contraceptives, smoking, and sexually transmitted infections.