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US poll reveals ‘significant’ gaps in women’s knowledge about cervical cancer

Over 70 per cent of women have delayed getting a Pap test, the US medtech company BD has found



New findings indicate a significant gap in women’s knowledge about the primary causes of cervical cancer and the most effective means of prevention.

Despite being one of the few cancers that is almost entirely preventable, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 14,000 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and more than 4,000 women die from it.

The online survey of US women between 18 and 64, conducted by The Harris Poll, found that 71 per cent of respondents have delayed getting a Pap test, also known as a smear test. 

Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear can give women a greater chance at a cure. The test can also detect changes in a woman’s cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future.

However, if the changes are not detected and treated appropriately, precancerous cells can turn into cervical cancer, experts warn.

Around 15 per cent of American women say their last OB/GYN visit for a routine care or check-up was more than three years ago, with nearly one in 10 saying they have never had a Pap test.

About one in 10 hispanic and black women say they have never had an OB/GYN visit for routine care and similar proportions say they have never had a Pap test.

When asked why they have delayed getting a Pap test, Hispanic women are more likely to report feeling embarrassed, afraid it would hurt or unable to access a OB/GYN.

“Racial and ethnic minorities, rural residents, sexual and gender minorities and those with limited English proficiency often face cultural, economic and geographical factors that preclude them from obtaining critical health screenings, including Pap and HPV tests,” said Brooke Story, worldwide president of Integrated Diagnostic Solutions for BD, the US medtech company that published the findings.

“Being that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, there is no better time to analyse the sentiment women hold around such screenings.

“The survey results underscore that lack of knowledge is one of the biggest barriers to receiving timely screening.

“We need more patient-centered communications to educate everyone, including and especially marginalised and underserved groups, in addition to providing greater access to critical diagnostic tools and services.”

As many as 75 per cent of American women say one of their 2023 resolutions would be to get on track with their annual health screening appointments, like OB/GYN visits.

While 91 per cent say they are knowledgeable about women’s health in general, fewer report being knowledgeable about more specific aspects, such as how often they should get a Pap test or HPV test that looks for the virus responsible for causing cervical cancer.

The study found that 67 per cent of American women were unaware that almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Overall, 47 per cent of American women say they don’t understand the difference between a Pap test and an HPV test, with Black women (58 per cent) more likely to agree with this than non-Hispanic white women (44 per cent).

Similarly, 66 per cent of did not know that nearly all sexually active men and women get HPV at some point in their lives, while 61 per cent did not know there are different types of HPV strains.

More than 50 per cent of American women mistakenly believe that Pap tests screen for a variety of STDs, while 67 per cent mistakenly believe that women aged 30 to 65 need a Pap test every year.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and US Preventive Services Task Force recommend screening begin at 21 years of age, with Pap testing every three years and average-risk individuals aged 30 years and older screen every five years with primary HPV testing or co-testing.

The American Cancer Society recommends screening begin at age 25 with primary HPV screening.



‘Groundbreaking’ endometriosis study identifies patient priorities



A “groundbreaking” study into endometriosis has identified three areas for future research that can help improve the outcomes for women with the condition.

The study, commissioned by Endometriosis New Zealand, attracted 1,262 participants, including 1,024 people with confirmed endometriosis, making it the largest ever study involving endometriosis patients and supporters in New Zealand.

Study participants identified the management and treatment of endometriosis, the need for a better understanding of its cause and improvements to diagnostic capability as the three main priorities for further research.

While these findings provide a clear pathway for future work, Endometriosis New Zealand chief executive, Tanya Cooke, said endometriosis research had historically been underfunded.

“With an estimated 120,000 New Zealanders living with endometriosis, much more needs to be invested into finding solutions,” Cooke explained.

“The reality is the outcomes for many endometriosis patients are pretty poor, with diagnosis often taking many years and treatment patchy across the country.”

Estimates based on Australian data suggest that endometriosis is likely to be costing New Zealand somewhere in the range of $1.3-1.5bn annually through increased healthcare costs and lost workforce productivity.

Cooke said: “The good news is that our findings align closely with those in Australia and provide three clear priorities for future research – improved treatment options, causation and better diagnostic capability.

“What New Zealand now requires is proper funding for a future research programme that can investigate these priorities more closely and improve the outcomes for individuals living with endometriosis.”

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Virtual care platform secures US$46m to address US maternal health crisis

Pomelo Care will use the funding to scale its care model and improve maternal and infant outcomes



Marta Bralic Kerns, founder and CEO of Pomelo Care

The US virtual maternity care platform Pomelo Care has secured US$46m in funding to address the US maternal health crisis.

One in 10 babies born in the US today start their life in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Healthcare access continues to worsen, with one in eight births occurring in US counties with limited-to-no access to maternal care. Due to significant gaps in postpartum care, about half of pregnancy-related deaths in the US occur after hospital discharge.

The evidence exists for how to identify people at highest risk for complications and which interventions are most effective, but existing data gaps and provider capacity challenges make it difficult to apply these interventions at scale.

Pomelo has developed a care model that aims to address these challenges by analysing claims and health record data to identify individual risk factors and providing virtual pregnancy, postpartum, and infant care to patients to reduce those risks.

“We’ve long known what works to reduce maternal and infant complications,” said Marta Bralic Kerns, founder and CEO of Pomelo Care.

“The questions have always been: can you identify the patients who are at highest risk, can you deeply engage them in care to drive uptake of the prevention strategies we know work, and can you do it in the highest risk populations with the most limited access to care?”

“This data demonstrates that we absolutely can. And with this additional funding, we’ll have the opportunity to scale our care model to more pregnant people across the country.”

The funding, led by existing investors First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) Bio + Health, is hoped to help Pomelo accelerate its partnerships with payors across the US and increase access to “evidence-based” care.

Josh Kopelman, partner at First Round Capital and Pomelo board member, said: “It’s rare to come across an opportunity where the incentives between patient, provider and payor are all aligned.

“Marta and the Pomelo team have found an incredible opportunity to dramatically improve outcomes for the highest risk populations, while helping payors reduce their avoidable costs.”

Vineeta Agarwala, general partner at a16z Bio + Health and Pomelo board member, added: “Pomelo is one among a small set of health tech companies that have earned true scale.

“This scale is evident in our partnerships with major Medicaid and commercial plans covering over three million lives, which create the opportunity to collaborate with OB providers, labour and delivery wards, and NICUs nationwide, while serving hundreds of thousands of expecting mothers and newborns with high quality, technology-enabled care.”

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One in three UK fertility patients seek treatment abroad due to high costs

Expensive fertility treatments prompt UK patients to seek help abroad



One in three fertility patients in the UK seek treatment abroad due to high costs, a new survey has shown.

Fertility Family has gathered insights from 429 UK participants who have experienced difficulties with infertility.

The Infertility Awareness Report found that the high cost of fertility treatment in the UK has driven over one in four people to spend over £10,000 on both treatments and investigative procedures.

The research showed around 35 per cent of people struggling with infertility have considered seeking fertility treatment abroad due to the prospect of lower costs.

Of those seeking fertility treatment in a foreign country, however, only 14 per cent believed that clinics abroad have a higher success rate.

Of those actively trying to conceive almost one in five have used their life savings in the pursuit of having a child, whilst 25 per cent have paid for their fertility treatments using a credit card.

Dr Gill Lockwood, consultant at Fertility Family, said: “While we tend to cast our gaze on women when it comes to infertility, case studies have shown that infertility can impact both women and men in similar ways. However, women have been observed to seek help more than men.

“Although the psychological struggles of infertility can be overwhelming, many patients ultimately reach some type of resolution. Some of the alternatives include becoming parents to a relative’s children, adopting children, or deciding to adopt a child-free lifestyle.

“Needless to say, this resolution is usually psychologically demanding, and patients may feel forever impacted by the experience of infertility.”

A combination of fertility struggles and accessible healthcare have impacted people across the UK significantly, with one in two admitting to feeling “ashamed” due to their difficulties trying to conceive.

A further 31 per cent reported feeling that other people think “less” of them due to their fertility struggles, showcasing the need for better mental health support.

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