Single Women Less Likely to Get Cancer Screenings

Many feel out of place going to doctors, report found

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FRIDAY, April 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Many unmarried women aged 40 to 75 say they're reluctant to have routine cancer screening tests because they feel misunderstood or out of place in doctors' offices.

That's the conclusion of initial information from the five-year Brown University Cancer Screening Project for Women.

The women said their feelings were based on a number of factors, ranging from the wording used in medical pre-visit questionnaires, to conversations with doctors. For example, unmarried women noted that doctors' intake forms didn't allow them to indicate any partner except a husband and, during medical exams, doctors didn't ask them about their intimate relationships.

"Regardless of partnership preferences, women in this age group were uncomfortable when their doctors assumed they did not have a partner because they were not married," project leader Melissa A. Clark, an assistant professor of community health, said in a prepared statement.

"Women wanted a trusting relationship with at least one [health] provider who knows about their life and is informed about the health issues related to their sexual history and intimate relationships," Clark said.

The Cancer Screening Project for Women is among the first to examine why the more than 20 million single women aged 40 to 75 in the United States are less likely than married women to have regular screenings for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers.

These initial results are from focus groups with 28 women who receive their health care in Rhode Island. The early findings, which appear in the most recent issue of Women and Health, will be used to design the next phase of the project.

More information

The Women's Cancer Network has more about women and cancer.

SOURCE: Brown University, news release, April 2004

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