Approximately 12,000 American women will learn they have cervical cancer this year, and of those, 4,000 will die from an advanced form of the disease. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and Tonyia Renee, a cervical cancer and endometriosis survivor herself, is focused on educating women about the importance of the pap test as a screening tool for cervical cancer and about vaccines that can further reduce the burden of this devastating disease.
“The launch of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) means that health care is becoming a reality for millions who were previously shut out of the system,” Renee, the new National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) Washington DC chapter leader, said.
She pointed out that under ACA, insurance plans are required to provide access to cervical cancer screening, including pap tests and, when appropriate, human papillomavirus (HPV) tests with no co-pay. Cervical cancer is most often diagnosed in poor women; the true tragedy of the disease is that cervical cancer screening tests and vaccines exist that can prevent virtually every case.
“We have a golden opportunity to provide more life-saving tests and vaccines to the women who need them most. We invite everyone to take a stand, get involved, and join our efforts,” Renee said. Her personal motto and chapter tagline is, “Initiating the Dialogue, Creating the Outlet, Providing Support, and Delivering the information needed to STOP the spread of the HPV.”
Renee was diagnosed with months to live in 2005 after years of abnormal pap tests. Now after having a total hysterectomy, she is fully recovered and is on a mission to encourage women to contact their health care providers to schedule a pap test to check for cervical cancer. While routine pap testing is the best means of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage, vaccines have the potential to protect women from the disease by targeting cancer-causing types of HPV. Two forms of the virus, HPV 16 and HPV 18, account for more than 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. Some medical experts believe that through successful education, screening, and vaccination programs for women, they will have the potential to nearly eliminate cervical cancer in the U.S.
Throughout the month of January the NCCC-DC Chapter will be sponsoring and attending many events in an effort to raise awareness. As a new chapter, the NCCC-DC’s goal is to be visible and available to provide information about HPV and support to cervical cancer patients and their caregivers, community leaders, and parents. On January 31, 2015, the NCCC-DC Chapter will host a Chapter Launch & Fundraising Event in Washington, D.C., and they would like to invite the public to attend and participate in their silent auction or sponsor a need.
Their intention is to raise the necessary funds needed to give free information regarding HPV and its connection to cervical cancer, point parents to the resources available to receive FREE HPV vaccines, as well as house a support group for patients and caregivers. Their goal for 2015 is to make the D.C. community aware of HPV, its vaccines, and focus on how together they can stop the spread of a preventable cancer that plagues girls and women locally and abroad.
To learn more about cervical cancer, contact the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) by visiting their website at http://www.nccc-online.org.