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Cervical Health Awareness Month: Toward Better Women’s Health

January marks Cervical Health Awareness Month. It's a direct call to action for women to emphasize cervical cancer and HPV-related disease prevention, as well as early detection.

This occasion also involves advocating for more research funding and better cervical health policies. It calls for everyone to share knowledge and champion preventive steps to help combat cervical cancer. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: January - Awareness Months, Days & Observances

History and Background of Cervical Health Awareness Month

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The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), under the umbrella of the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), established Cervical Health Awareness Month in the United States in 2010. 

This event raises awareness about the link between HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer and the potential risks they pose to women worldwide.

Also called Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it encourages individuals to take preventive measures such as regular screenings and vaccination against HPV. 

The introduction of the HPV vaccine in 2006 was a significant milestone for cervical health, complementing the Pap test and helping to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

Related Read: World Cancer Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The Cause and Its Challenges

vaccination
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January's Cervical Health Awareness Month brings attention to cervical cancer and its lethal perpetrator, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV strains 16 and 18 cause most cervical cancers. 

Globally, cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most common cancer in women1. Staggeringly, in 2020, the disease was responsible for roughly 604,000 diagnoses and caused 342,000 deaths.

Zooming in on the US, we find that nearly 14,000 women grapple with invasive cervical cancer annually2. It's a prominent player in the arena of cancer fatalities, with survival rates swaying drastically—between 19% and 91%—based on the stage of detection.

That's where the life-saving potential of prevention tactics, like Pap smears, cervical cancer screenings, and HPV tests, lies. They are the front-line defense, detecting issues early before they balloon into full-scale problems. Similarly, vaccines act as shields, protecting against HPV infections, albeit they aren't equipped to treat pre-existing infections.

The hitch, though, is in the reach of these preventative measures. Affordability and accessibility barriers often deprive women in lower socio-economic tiers and developing countries of these vital health resources. As a result, cervical cancer death continues to be an uneven battlefield.

Along with limited resource access, the fight against cervical cancer also contends with persistent misconceptions and gaps in awareness. Bolstering widespread understanding of the disease adds yet another layer to the mission of eradicating cervical cancer.

Efforts and Initiatives

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer. They aim to reduce new cervical cancer cases by over 40% before 2030 through vaccination, screening, and treatment programs. 

Likewise, the United Nations (UN) supports cervical cancer prevention as part of its Sustainable Development Goals. It aims to decrease premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by a third using prevention and treatment by 2030. Cervical health has become a global focus. 

In the United States, the American Cancer Society has implemented educational programs and awareness campaigns to provide resources and knowledge to the public. 

The UK's National Health Service has a campaign called "Cervical Screening Saves Lives," emphasizing the importance of regular checks. 

Grassroots nonprofit organizations like the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) advocate for cervical health, supporting research, providing education, and lobbying for accessible prevention and treatment methods against cervical cancer.

These efforts demonstrate the power of innovation and integrated approaches in promoting cervical health awareness and prevention.

How to Get Involved and Support Cervical Health Awareness Month

female doctor and patient
Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy on Pexels.

First of all, if you are a woman or have a woman close to you, encourage her to take a cervical cancer screening and to schedule it as recommended.

Next,  join local events like informative sessions, screening clinics, and fundraisers to learn about cervical cancer, HPV disease, and other illnesses. Hospitals, health clinics, and community organizations often host such events. Volunteering at such events can provide a unique perspective and an opportunity to make a direct impact.

Your digital footprint can also bring cervical health to the forefront of conversations. Sharing a statistic or a survivor's story can inspire others to take action. 

Likewise, hosting a bake sale, auctioning donated items, or organizing a charity walkathon can unite your community while generating funds for critical research and support services. 

Finally, even wearing teal and white, the symbolic colors of Cervical Health Awareness Month, is a simple yet powerful way to express your support.

Conclusion

Cervical Health Awareness Month draws attention to a familiar yet preventable health issue - cervical disease. Regular screenings and early detection can help us overcome this disease. 

Women should schedule their annual Pap tests, and parents must keep their children up-to-date with their HPV vaccination. Let's take charge of our health and fight against cervical disease.

Cervical Health Awareness Month FAQs

1. What's Cervical Health Awareness Month all about?

Simply put, it's a month dedicated to spotlighting cervical health. This includes the need for regular screening and vaccination to ward off cervical cancer.

2. Why care about cervical health?

Here's why - preventing cervical cancer is possible! If diagnosed early, there's treatment available. Pap tests detect abnormalities early before they even have a chance to turn into cancer.

3. How frequently should I go for a Pap or HPV test?

Usually, the drill is for women to kick-start regular Pap tests at 21 and keep at it every three years until 65. But, individual health factors may change the equation, so have a chat with your healthcare provider about your HPV testing schedule.

4. Can I get vaccinated to prevent cervical cancer?

Yes, vaccines are on hand to combat specific types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer. Ideally, both males and females should get these vaccines before they are sexually active.

5. How do I support the cause?

Promote cervical health by spreading the word about regular screenings and vaccinations. Consider making donations to related organizations or joining local events to push awareness even further.

1

Singh, D., Vignat, J., Lorenzoni, V., Eslahi, M., Ginsburg, O., Lauby‐Secretan, B., Arbyn, M., Basu, P., Bray, F., & Vaccarella, S. (2023). Global estimates of incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in 2020: a baseline analysis of the WHO Global Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative. The Lancet Global Health, 11(2), e197–e206.

2

Cancer of the cervix Uteri - Cancer Stat Facts. (n.d.). SEER. Retrieved December 22, 2023.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by MesserWoland on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).
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