Cervical cancer is now viewed by most physicians as preventable, and in more affluent parts of the country it is correspondingly rare. But in the poorer pockets of less wealthy states it remains disturbingly common. Women who develop cervical cancer in Alabama are more likely to die than their counterparts in any other state—and in recent years Alabama’s mortality rate has been rising.
One winter day in 2016, Tonya Carter felt a sharp pain in her lower back. In the months that followed, the pain grew more frequent and more diffuse, running down the back of her legs when she was sitting, and flaring up when she lay on the sofa in her living room at night. A devout Christian, Carter prayed that God, whom she referred to as “my ultimate physician,” would make the pain go away. It didn’t go away. She would have gone to see an actual doctor, but it was beyond her financial means.
By the next summer, Carter was suffering so acutely that she finally sought medical care. The cause of her distress, she learned, was cervical cancer. Recently, a nurse informed her that the disease had advanced to Stage IV B: it had spread to her ovaries and other internal organs, and was considered terminal.
See “A Preventable Cancer Is on the Rise in Alabama” by Eyal Press on the New Yorker website (March 30, 2020)