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Put on Your Cervical Cancer Ribbon: Flo Supports Cervical Health Awareness Month

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer affecting women. It’s also one of the most easily preventable forms of cancer, thanks to HPV vaccination and regular cervical cancer screening. Read on to learn how raising awareness about cervical cancer and testing can improve female health on a global scale and what you can do to support cervical health awareness month.

First, how does someone develop cervical cancer?

Almost all cervical cancer cases (99 percent) are caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections out there. Cervical cancer occurs when cancerous cells form in the cervix (the canal that connects the uterus and vagina). If it’s not treated, cervical cancer can also spread to surrounding areas in the pelvis or to other parts of the body. 

How common is cervical cancer?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, there were 570,000 people around the globe diagnosed with cervical cancer, and around 311,000 died from the disease. It is most commonly found in sexually active people between the ages of 35 and 44. 

Can cervical cancer be prevented or treated?

The good news is: cervical cancer is easy to avoid. Getting the HPV vaccine and seeing your OB-GYN for regular screenings can prevent the majority of cervical cancer cases. It’s also highly treatable when doctors catch it early enough. Once the highest cause of cancer death for women in the United States, cervical cancer deaths have decreased by 75 percent since the 1950s, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. This is thanks to great strides in scientific research over the last several decades on new ways to both prevent and treat cervical cancer at different stages, including screening for HPV, advanced biopsy techniques, targeted therapy, and more.

However, access to prevention and treatment is unfortunately not equally available across the world. Around 85 percent of deaths due to cervical cancer occur in low and middle-income regions, such as Africa, mainly because of limited access to medical resources, screening, and HPV vaccines.

January is cervical health awareness month. It’s great to talk about cervical cancer causes and prevention any time of the year, but especially in January! Because HPV infection and early-stage cervical cancer are symptomless, health care providers recommend getting the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 (before becoming sexually active) and regular cervical screenings starting at age 21 to check for precancerous cells. 

Teal and white are the cervical cancer awareness colors. Wearing a cervical cancer ribbon shows support for those diagnosed with cervical cancer and helps raise awareness about this major public health issue that affects hundreds of thousands of people globally each year.  

There’s a much higher chance to recover from cervical cancer when it’s detected early, but early-stage cervical cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms. According to research by the American Cancer Society, when cervical cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, usually through surgery, the control rate is 87–95 percent. So, it’s really important to raise awareness and encourage people to get regular cervical screenings. A Pap test determines if there are abnormal cells that could become cancerous, and an HPV screening checks for the virus that causes these changes in the cervix. If you’ve never had a Pap smear before, check out Flo’s guide to your first Pap smear here

Doctors and medical researchers believe that increasing awareness and screening worldwide will have a huge impact on reducing the death rate caused by this disease. According to experts, rolling out the newest HPV vaccine on a global scale could prevent up to 90 percent of cervical cancer cases. And the WHO states that a comprehensive approach to prevent, screen, and treat cervical cancer can totally eliminate it as a public health issue within just one generation. Pretty amazing, right? Researchers have already looked into this with a 2016 study of 588 cervical cancer patients in rural India. They found a survival rate that was two times higher than in other parts of the country due to early screening, treatment, and follow-up care. 

So, by talking more about cervical cancer and expanding access to HPV vaccines and regular screenings, this disease can become a thing of the past!

There are lots of ways you can increase cervical cancer awareness in your community:

One of the best ways to spread awareness during cervical cancer month (and throughout the year) is to talk about it. Talk to people around you and encourage them to get their wellness exams this year. Let them know that almost every insurance plan covers screening exams for cervical cancer.

Talk to preteens and their parents and tell them about how the HPV vaccine prevents both the spread of infection and cervical cancer.

You can also tweet about the importance of cervical cancer awareness month.

Some people wear teal and white cervical cancer ribbons during cervical health awareness month in January to raise awareness for cervical cancer and honor those who’ve had it.

Learn about what you can do to support cervical health. You can discuss the HPV vaccine and screening tests for cervical cancer with a health care provider or read about them online. There are government-run websites with valuable information about cervical cancer prevention and early detection.

During cervical health awareness month, you can host an event in your community to talk about cervical health and preventative care.

Early cervical cancer tends to be symptomless, but it is possible to catch it early with regular cervical screenings. If cervical cancer is found early enough, it’s very treatable. This cervical health awareness month, you can do your part by wearing a teal and white cervical cancer ribbon to show support for people affected by this disease and raise awareness for greater screening and prevention across the world. 

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Hull R, Mbele M, Makhafola T, et al. Cervical cancer in low and middle-income countries. Oncol Lett. 2020;20(3):2058-2074. doi:10.3892/ol.2020.11754

Mayo Clinic Staff. “HPV vaccine: Who needs it, how it works.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 May 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/in-depth/hpv-vaccine/art-20047292

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