January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Women In Government encourages state legislators to address cervical cancer prevention by increasing access to the most advanced screening and preventive technologies, particularly for underserved women, and increasing awareness about HPV and cervical cancer.
Women In Government’s fight against cervical cancer began in 2004 when the organization launched the Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Campaign. The Campaign engages state legislators nationwide in policy and awareness initiatives to advance cervical cancer prevention efforts. In the course of six years, all 50 states have introduced and enacted legislation aimed at the elimination of cervical cancer, from creating cervical cancer prevention task forces, to enhancing access to screenings and vaccines, to initiating public education campaigns and mobilizing efforts to reach underserved populations.
Unfortunately, cervical cancer still remains the second leading cause of cancer death in women, with almost a quarter-million deaths occurring each year. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated that in 2009, more than 11,200 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States. Additionally, cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women, at a rate that is more than twice the rate for non-Hispanic Caucasian women. African-American women develop this cancer about 50 percent more often than non-Hispanic Caucasian women.
Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer in women worldwide, but it is almost always preventable. With regular screenings and follow-up, cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent. In recognition of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month Women In Government encourages all state legislators to continue working collaboratively within their communities and legislatures to support cervical cancer screening, vaccination, and treatment programs.
Recently, Women In Government featured HPV & Cervical Cancer at our 17th Annual State Director's Conference & Ninth Biennial First-Term Legislators Conference. Dr. Estelle Whitney provided a presentation with her expert knowledge, and her materials are available here. Additionally, Women In Government featured the issue at it's First Annual Healthcare Summit, where survivors and experts spoke about their experiences. Women In Government develops and updates policy recommendations to help guide legislators in the continued fight against cervical cancer, paying particular attention to gaps in current policy, and the need to address the availability of new technologies.
About Cervical Cancer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 million people are currently infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is also a main cause of cervical cancer. At least half of all sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. For 90 percent of infected women, the virus is naturally cleared by the body and becomes undetectable within two years. However, persistent infection with “high-risk” types of HPV can cause cell changes that, if left untreated, can lead to cervical cancer.
Rates of cervical cancer can be reduced by focusing on screening and prevention through: HPV vaccinations; regular screenings, including the Pap test; and follow-up with a doctor if test results are abnormal.