“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela
January is cervical cancer awareness month. Recently my research team and I have been working to discover ways to improve treatment options for advanced cervical cancer patients. Though we have made tremendous progress, the best treatment for cervical cancer as with all cancers remains the same: Prevention.
Unlike other cancers, however, cervical cancer or at least HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer, has an enemy. It has a vaccine.
The vaccine Gardasil prevents four different HPV types, while the vaccine Cervarix prevents the two HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancers. That is 8,400 of the 12,000 women who are expected to be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. That is 8400 women, who will no longer have to bear the burden of cancer, whose families will not be thrown into the chaos of cancer, whose lives will not be drastically altered forever by cancer. And that is just 8400 women in one year.
And yet, according to a report from the President’s Cancer Panel, only one-third of girls in the US have been fully immunized with all three recommended doses, though a safe and effective vaccine has been available for eight years.
According to the CDC, raising vaccination rates to at least 80% of teenage girls could prevent 53,000 future cases of cervical cancer in girls alive today. So, why are we not vaccinating more? Is it fear? Is it stigma? Or is it simply a lack of education?
As healthcare leaders, it is our responsibility to take crucial information about healthcare into our community. That is why I am so passionate about our latest efforts to do just that through cCARE, the “cancer – Community Awareness & Access Research Education” initiative.
c-CARE is about reaching people where they are. By working with churches, community clinics, recreation centers, schools and myriad other places where people gather, we can provide education and information to our community without waiting for the community to come to us. It is this proactive method of disseminating information that will continue to build strong bonds of trust and engagement.
These are the bonds that will ultimately save lives.