Considerable evidence shows a large proportion of older women have either never had a Pap test or have significant gaps in their history of cervical cancer screening. Differences in health care utilization patterns by age, cohort differences in use of medical subspecialities, and provider reluctance to perform cancer screening within the general medical care encounter have been suggested as reasons for underscreening. Our study conducted in 1985 documents prior health care utilization patterns of 153 cases of Maryland women with invasive cervical cancer compared with a matched control group. Analysis within three age groups showed that cases were significantly less likely to have ever had a Pap test or to receive regular Pap testing, primarily due to differences in medical care utilization patterns. Never having an obstetrician-gynecology visit, a recent (<3 years) internist visit, or not having any out-patient visit were significant risk factors. Other risks included older age at first Pap test, reporting not being told to have routine Pap tests, and not using contraceptives. In a multiple logistic regression analysis, recent out-patient visits and lifetime use of an obstetrician-gynecologist remained significant after adjusting for age interactions with recent Pap test history, underscoring the importance of medical care utilization patterns for screening of cancer of the uterine cervix among the elderly.
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