Marital Status Plays a Role in Cancer Screenings

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Single women claim feelings of being misunderstood or out of place in a physician's office as reasons why they are hesitant to have routine cancer screening tests. This initial information comes from the 5-year Brown University Cancer Screening Project for Women. These early findings will be used to design the next phase of the project. The 28 women, who were part of focus groups that receive their health care in Rhode Island, said that their feelings stem from a number of factors. The factors ranged from the wording used in medical previsit questionnaires to conversation with physicians.

For example, unmarried women noted that physicians' intake forms did not allow them to indicate any partner except a husband, and, during medical examinations, physicians did not ask them about their intimate relationships. The Brown University study is among the first to examine why >20 million single women aged 40 to 75 in the United States are less likely, compared with married women, to have regular screenings for cervical, breast, and colorectal cancers. (The findings were reported recently in Women and Health.)