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Help wanted: low provider density is associated with advanced stage cervical cancer


Background Patients in rural areas have a higher incidence of cervical cancer with increased rates of metastatic disease than their urban counterparts.

Objective To evaluate whether medical provider density, acting as a surrogate for screening availability, is associated with the incidence of cervical cancer or proportion diagnosed with advanced stage disease.

Methods Cervical cancer cases by county from 2015 were retrieved from the SEER database. The numbers of primary obstetric-gynecologists (OB-GYN), family practice, and internal medicine providers were obtained from the Area Health Resource File, and population estimates for each county were used to calculate provider to resident ratios. Spearman rank correlations were used to compare the number of providers per 100 000 residents with the overall incidence of cervical cancer as well as the proportion diagnosed at an advanced stage. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to assess factors independently associated with advanced stage disease, accounting for county of residence. Mortality was compared across different OB-GYN provider density categories.

Results A total of 3505 cases of cervical cancer from 405 counties were included. Spearman correlation demonstrated a significant inverse association between the number of OB-GYN providers per 100 000 residents and the incidence of cervical cancer (p<0.0001) as well as the proportion diagnosed at an advanced stage (p=0.003). Compared with those living in counties with ≤5 OB-GYN providers per 100 000 residents, those living in counties with >10 providers had a 29% reduction in the odds of presenting with advanced stage disease (OR=0.71; 95% CI 0.55 to 0.91). An inverse association between cervical cancer-related mortality and OB-GYN provider density was also noted.

Conclusion A significant inverse correlation between provider density and incidence of cervical cancer, proportion with advanced stage disease, and cervical cancer-related mortality was observed. Increasing provider density in these underserved, high-risk areas may improve timely cancer detection.

  • cervical cancer
  • gynecology

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Publicly available databases were used for this analysis.

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