, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 135-143
Date: 24 Oct 2008

The Nurse’s Role in the Prevention of Cervical Cancer Among Underserved and Minority Populations

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Abstract

Since the implementation of the Papanicolaou test, there has been a significant decline in the incidence of cervical cancer over the last 50 years. Despite this reduction, each year there are approximately 11,000 women in the United States diagnosed with cervical cancer, the second most common type of cancer in women worldwide. Infection with oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) is necessary for the development of precancerous lesions and the progression to cervical cancer. For those diagnosed with an HPV infection or cervical cancer, a considerable personal and financial burden often results. Recent analyses estimate that the total direct costs associated with cervical dysplasia and cancer are extensive. Additionally, a patient’s quality of life (social, emotional, and sexual functioning) is adversely affected following a diagnosis with an HPV infection or cervical cancer. The data also show disparities in the incidence of cervical cancer and barriers that may contribute to these phenomena in underserved populations. National programs have been implemented and can help reduce the burden of disease, but vaccination against HPV remains the primary method of prevention. In the healthcare field, nurses play many roles, a prominent one being a patient educator. As a result, there is a need to educate nurses about the risks and impact of HPV and cervical cancer. Nurses can be instrumental in educating the public about vaccination and increasing awareness of HPV and cervical cancer among the underserved.