Though it is largely preventable, nearly 400 Kentucky women develop cervical cancer each year, and 66 die of it. Kentucky has one of the highest incidence rates and mortality rates of cervical cancer in the country, mostly affecting rural, white women.
The Cervical Cancer-Free America initiative launched earlier this month, bringing together six states, including Kentucky, and more than 75 organizations to help eradicate the disease. Promoting education, vaccination and effective screening are the cornerstones of the effort.
“Cervical cancer is a preventable and, if found early, a curable disease,” said Dr. Baretta R. Casey, director of Cervical Cancer-Free Kentucky. “Education of every woman, young and old, is important.”
CCFA will bring together public health professionals, foundations, private partners and cancer survivors like Marissa Winokur, right, to build a public health campaign. “The goal of making the United States free of cervical cancer is ambitious but eminently achievable. Just like the polio vaccine nearly eradicated polio globally during the 20th century, we now have the opportunity to nearly eradicate cervical cancer collectively through screening, vaccination and treatment,” CCFA Director Jennifer S. Smith said.
Cervical cancer is caused by various types of the human papillomavirus, which three of four adults contract at some point in their lives. A vaccine against two types of this virus, which are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers, is available for girls and young women ages 11 to 26. But only a fourth of them have received all three doses of the vaccine.
The vaccine does not protect against all types of cervical cancer, so screening is still needed. The Pap test, which is generally performed annually, can detect cervical cancer when it is still treatable. At least half of all cervical cancer deaths are due to lack of regular screening. (Read more)