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Mentally Ill Women are Less Likely to get Cancer Screenings

Update Date: Nov 22, 2014 09:18 AM EST

Women diagnosed with severe mental illness are less likely to get cancer screenings, a new study reported. The team stated that skipping these routine tests, which include pap smears, mammograms and clinical breast exams could increase women's risk of premature death.

For this study, researcher Xiaoling Xiang from the University of Illinois examined three years of medical data on more than 17,000 women who completed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Overall, more than 1,300 participants between the ages of 40 and 74 had signs of serious psychological distress, such as depression and feelings of hopelessness.

When the team examined their screening rates, they found that women who had these symptoms were 41 percent less likely to get pap tests. They were also 38 percent less likely to receive mammograms and 35 percent less likely to get clinical breast exams.

"People with serious mental illness are estimated to die an average of 14 to 32 years earlier than the average person," said Xiang,, reported in the University's news release. "There's a big health disparity there. Their frequent contact with the health care system opens up opportunities for providers to implement targeted interventions and patient education to improve utilization of preventive services."

The study, "Serious Psychological Distress as a Barrier to Cancer Screenings Among Women," was published in the journal, Women's Health Issues.

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