Cervical cancer risk and screening among women seeking assistance with basic needs

Lindsay M. Kuroki, L. Stewart Massad, Candice Woolfolk, Tess Thompson, Amy McQueen, Matthew W. Kreuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: In the United States, more than half of cervical cancers occur in women who are inadequately screened. Interventions to improve access to cervical cancer preventive care is critical to reduce health inequities. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the need for cervical cancer screening among women seeking assistance with basic needs and to assess best approaches to facilitate Papanicolaou test referral. Study Design: This study is a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of low-income female callers to 2-1-1 Missouri, a helpline for local health and social services. The need for cervical cancer screening was assessed. Callers were randomized to 1 of 3 arms, each providing a Papanicolaou test referral: verbal referral only, verbal referral and tailored print reminder, or verbal referral and navigator. The primary outcome was contacting a Papanicolaou test referral 1 month following intervention. Student t tests or Mann-Whitney U tests were used to analyze significant differences in continuous variables, whereas Fisher exact or χ2 tests were used for categorical variables. We stratified by number of unmet basic needs (0–1 vs ≥2) and compared success of contacting a Papanicolaou test referral among study groups (verbal referral vs tailored reminder vs navigator) using the Fisher exact test and χ2 test, respectively. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess risk factors for nonadherence for Papanicolaou test at baseline and at 1 month follow-up, adjusting for race and ethnicity, age, insurance status, self-rated health, smoking, and study group. Results: Among 932 female callers, 250 (26.8%) needed cervical cancer screening. The frequency of unmet basic needs was high, the most common being lack of money for unexpected expenses (91.2%) and necessities, such as food, shelter, and clothing (73.2%). Among those needing a Papanicolaou test, 211 women received screening referrals. Women in the navigator group (21 of 71, 29.6%) reported higher rates of contacting a Papanicolaou test referral than those exposed to verbal referral only (11/73, 15.1%) or verbal referral and tailored print reminder (9/67, 13.4%) (P=.03). Among 176 women with ≥2 unmet needs who received a Papanicolaou test referral, the provision of a navigator remained associated with contacting the referral (navigator [33.9%] vs verbal referral [17.2%] vs tailored reminder [10.2%]; P=.005). Assignment to the navigator group (adjusted odds ratio, 3.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.4–8.5) and nonwhite race (adjusted odds ratio, 2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.5–2.8) were independent predictors of contacting a Papanicolaou test referral. Conclusion: Low-income women seeking assistance with basic needs often lack cervical cancer screening. Health navigators triple the likelihood that women will make contact with Papanicolaou test services, but most 2-1-1 callers still fail to schedule Papanicolaou testing despite assistance from navigators. Interventions beyond health navigators are needed to reduce cervical cancer disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368.e1-368.e8
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • 2-1-1 callers
  • Papanicolaou test
  • adherence to cervical cancer screening
  • cervical cancer prevention
  • navigator assistance with unmet basic needs
  • unmet basic needs


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