"In Kentucky's mountains, cervical cancer continues to threaten women's lives at some of the highest rates in the United States," health reporter Laura Ungar writes. "Women in Eastern Kentucky get cervical cancer at a rate more than a third higher than the U.S. average -- higher than reported rates in Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. Death rates in Appalachian Kentucky are also far higher than the U.S. average." Rates in some Appalachian counties of Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio are similar.
"It is comparable to a Third World country," Katie Dollarhide of Whitesburg, Ky., told Ungar. She helps run a cervical-cancer research project and prevention program called Faith Moves Mountains. "The reasons behind the higher incidence and deaths are similar to those in the developing world," Ungar writes. "Poverty and lack of health insurance combine with doctor shortages, transportation problems and a cultural tendency for women to care for others while neglecting their own health."We're talking about "a preventable cancer that has largely been controlled in the United States," Ungar notes. A report from the National Cancer Institute says cervical cancer is high among "Appalachian and other rural whites; rural African Americans, particularly those in the Deep South; Latinas living near the Texas-Mexico border; and Vietnamese American and other Asian women, particularly those in California." For a copy of the report, which has maps showing the range of cancer rates for every county, click here. For Ungar's story and others, click here.