I am back from Washington, DC and feeling energized! I just spent an amazing weekend at the National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s Conference attended by 85 powerful, motivated and dynamic women who gathered together for one cause…to help fight cervical cancer. As a cervical cancer survivor, I was invited to be a keynote speaker and to share my personal story and to discuss ways in which we can increase cervical health awareness in our communities.
I was joined by an impressive line-up of other speakers including Christine Baze (www.popsmear.org), Tamika Felder (tamikaandfriends.org), Juan Felix, M.D., Cornelia Trimble, M.D., Beverly Kirkhart (www.beverlykirkhart.com), and Heidi Bauer, MD, MS, MPH .
During the conference, the following was discussed:
- Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women and it is caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- HPV is a ubiquitous virus and almost everyone (men and women) is infected with one or more types in their lifetime.
- Many people have no symptoms and are not even aware that they are infected with HPV.
- The body’s immune system usually eliminates HPV infection on its own.
- HPV can reoccur and high risk HPV causes cancer.
- There are 400,000 new cases diagnosed annually and 200,000 deaths/year worldwide.
- Highest incidences of cervical cancer are found in Africa, South America, and India.
Cervical cancer is not a death sentence and can be treated if detected in the early stages. To lower your chances of getting cervical cancer, women should get an annual Pap test and ask for an HPV test. There is a new vaccine on the market called Gardasil that has been approved by the FDA to prevent cervical cancer in females. **I am a proponent for getting young girls vaccinated before they become sexually active. This would greatly reduce the amount of cervical cancer cases.
I am grateful for being invited to speak at the conference because I met many wonderful new friends who share in my enthusiasm to spread the word about HPV prevention, detection and treatment!
The Cervical Cancer Quilt Project, managed by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, is a key component of the NCCC public education initiative to raise awareness about cervical cancer. The quilts are composed of squares made by, or in memory of, women who have battled cervical cancer and precancerous lesions. Like the famous AIDS and ovarian cancer quilts, they are magnificent works of art. They give a human face to cervical cancer, create a compelling sense of urgency about this terrible disease, and serve as a dramatic way of expanding awareness about cervical cancer and the importance of early detection. They also reach women, their family members and caregivers in an affirmative way – allowing a cancer message to be absorbed in a comforting environment.
To learn more about HPV and cervical cancer, visit the NCCC’s website at www.nccc-online.org.