January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Women's Health Advocates Urge Women to 'Take the Pearl Pledge' to Protect Themselves and Other Women From Cervical Cancer

Jan 06, 2010, 07:00 ET from Tamika and Friends, Inc.

UPPER MARLBORO, Md., Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer wants women to protect themselves - and their mothers, daughters, sisters and friends - from this preventable disease. Thus, in honor of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January, this coalition of leading women's health advocates today launched its "Take the Pearl Pledge" initiative, which asks women to: schedule their annual gynecologic examination, wear a Pearl of Wisdom in support of cervical cancer prevention, and encourage 5 friends to do the same. The campaign aims to secure 4,070 pledges - the same number of U.S. women who were projected to die of cervical cancer in 2009 - by Mother's Day (May 9, 2010). Women can participate in the "Take the Pearl Pledge" effort at www.PearlofWisdom.us/Pledge.

"Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer in women worldwide. This year in the United States, more than 11,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 women will die of this disease," said Tamika Felder, cervical cancer survivor and founder of the nonprofit organization, Tamika and Friends (www.tamikaandfriends.org), the lead U.S. partner in the Pearl of Wisdom campaign. "Cervical cancer, however, is almost always preventable - with the Pap test, the HPV test and the HPV vaccine. We want women to know this, to ask for the prevention tools that are appropriate for them, and to help us get the word out to other women by wearing their pearl and starting the conversation."

Following, according to the Pearl of Wisdom campaign, is what every woman should know:

  • Girls and young women: Ask your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine, which protects against the two types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause the majority of cervical cancers. The vaccines are recommended for girls 11 to 12 years old, and are approved for girls and young women up to age 26. Even women who have been vaccinated will still need to be screened.
  • Women age 21 or older: Get the Pap test, which detects abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer.
  • Women age 30 or older: Get the Pap test and the HPV test together as part of routine cervical cancer screening. The HPV test detects the virus that causes cervical cancer, identifying those women at increased risk who will need to be monitored more closely.

"Unlike other cancers, cervical cancer is almost always preventable because we know what causes it - HPV infection - and we have the tools available to prevent this cancer," said Susan Wysocki, WHNP-BC, FAANP, president and CEO of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (www.npwh.org), a partner in the Pearl of Wisdom campaign. "With proper screening and vaccination, no woman should lose her fertility to or die of this disease."

For the "Take the Pearl Pledge" initiative, women can purchase a Pearl of Wisdom, the global symbol for cervical cancer prevention, at www.PearlofWisdom.us/Pledge. All proceeds go to the U.S. Pearl of Wisdom Campaign Fund, which supports U.S.-based cervical cancer prevention activities. Women can also wear their own pearl to participate.

Pearl of Wisdom campaign partners are also sharing information about cervical cancer prevention and the "Take the Pearl Pledge" with their members. National campaign partners include American Association of University Women, American Medical Women's Association, the American Social Health Association, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the Balm In Gilead, Black Women's Health Imperative, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Global Summit of Women, Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, HealthyWomen, the Hicks Foundation, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, the National Council of Women's Organizations, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Society for Women's Health Research, Tamika and Friends, Women In Government, the Yellow Umbrella Organization, and others.

About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide. In the U.S., the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2009, 11,270 women would be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,070 women would die of the disease. Cervical cancer is caused by persistent infections with high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that 3 of 4 adults will have at some time in their lives. Most of these infections go away on their own without treatment. Infections that do not go away on their own can lead to cervical cancer.

A Pap test is the traditional method used for cervical cancer screening. An HPV test identifies women who are infected with high-risk types of HPV that could potentially lead to cervical cancer. Clinical studies suggest that screening with both a Pap test and an HPV test offers women aged 30 and older the best protection against cervical cancer. HPV vaccines, recommended for 11- to 12-year-old girls and approved for young women up to age 26, have been shown to be highly effective at preventing infection with the two most common types of HPV that cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancers. HPV vaccination does not protect against all the HPV types that can cause cervical cancer; thus, women who have been vaccinated still need to be screened.

About the Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer

The Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer is a united, global effort to raise awareness of the opportunities now available to prevent cervical cancer. The campaign increases awareness of the new means of preventing cervical cancer, encourages women to take full advantage of these methods, and advocates for the implementation of these tools for girls and women everywhere. The campaign promotes the Pearl of Wisdom as the global symbol for cervical cancer prevention. All profits from purchases of the Pearl of Wisdom go to the U.S. Pearl of Wisdom Campaign Fund to support cervical cancer prevention activities. The Pearl of Wisdom campaign was launched in the U.S. in 2009, where it is led by the national nonprofit organization, Tamika and Friends, Inc., and includes more than 20 national partner organizations. The campaign is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from QIAGEN, Inc.

SOURCE Tamika and Friends, Inc.