Have you been tested?

In the United States, research has shown that people who are obese are less likely to get tested for breast, colon and cervical cancer than those who are normal weight. A study at the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry—and reported on Eureka Alert—looked at whether this trend is also true in Canada.

The researchers looked at a national survey of 38,000 women ages 20 to 69. It asked for the women’s Body Mass Index (to determine obesity), if they had a regular doctor and whether they had screening tests for breast, colon and cervical cancer.

For the most part, the news is good. The study found no difference between overweight women and those with normal weight in terms of testing for breast and colon cancer. However, the results were not as good for cervical cancer screening, which is done by a Pap smear.

While 82 per cent of women said they had a Pap smear in the past three years, testing decreased as BMI levels increased. Obese women are 30 to 40 per cent less likely—depending on the degree of obesity—to have cervical cancer screening.
The results also showed obese women are two times more likely than normal-weight women to state that fear—including fear of pain, embarrassment or of finding something wrong—was the reason they did not have a Pap test.

The researchers believe that this needs to be addressed through increased awareness and vigilance on the part of patients and health care providers. More studies are needed to determine if other barriers exist and, if so, what are the best methods of removing those barriers.

The results from this research will appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Have you been avoiding an important medical test? If so, why? What would convince you to get it tomorrow?