The following information was provided by USA Health:
During the worst surges of the COVID-19 pandemic, many women in Alabama postponed regular screenings for cervical cancer. As a result, more are being diagnosed with cancer at later, more dangerous stages.
“COVID-19 has caused women to miss pap tests to diagnose cervical pre-cancer and adolescents to miss HPV vaccinations that prevent cervical cancer,” said Jennifer Young Pierce, M.D., M.P.H., lead of Cancer Control and Prevention at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute and a professor of gynecologic oncology at the USA College of Medicine. “The combination creates a perfect storm that threatens to erode 20 years of improvement in cervical cancer mortality.”
The urgent message is central to this year’s statewide “GO Teal and White” campaign to raise awareness about how to prevent cervical cancer, which kills more women in the Deep South than in any other region in the nation. The campaign is joined by several other organizations from across Alabama and will run throughout January, Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. In 2021, an estimated 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in the United States, and about 4,290 women were expected to die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Over the five-year period from 2013-2017, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas tied for the worst death rates from cervical cancer in the nation, the CDC reported.
However, the disease is preventative with vaccination against HPV, which is responsible for nine out of 10 cases of cervical cancer. “HPV vaccination is cancer prevention,” Pierce said. “The goal is to get the word out to prevent cervical cancer and save lives through vaccination, pap tests and follow-up testing,” Pierce said.
The campaign calls on businesses, nonprofit organizations and supporters to hang GO Teal and White posters during the month of January and to wear teal and white on GO Teal and White Day, set for Tuesday, Jan. 12. The RSA Tower in Mobile will be lit in teal and white to commemorate the day.
Joining the Mitchell Cancer Institute for the GO Teal and White campaign are partner organizations from across Alabama, including the American Cancer Society, USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama Public Health, the Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition, the Laura Crandall Brown Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Go Doc Go, the Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program of Alabama, the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Jefferson County Health Department, the Mobile County Health Department and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The Mitchell Cancer Institute offers the following recommendations to prevent cervical cancer:
- Get screened. A Pap test is recommended every three to five years for women ages 21 to 64. An HPV test is recommended starting at age 30.
- Follow up with your physician on any abnormal screening results.
- Vaccinate adolescent boys and girls, ideally between the ages of 9 and 12, against HPV.
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