Ending cervical cancer in North Carolina

Launch of Cervical Cancer-Free NC Initiative

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the launch of the Cervical Cancer-Free North Carolina Initiative. Governor Beverly Perdue was especially eloquent, and each speaker had an important story to tell and information to impart. Cervical cancer kills about 114 women in N.C. each year–over 4,000 women in the U.S. and more than 230,000 around the world–each year. It is a perfect example of the synergy between local and global challenges. What we learn from this North Carolina initiative could help to create models not only for use in the U.S. but globally as well.monday-morning-blog-cervical-cancer-talk-photo.JPG

Similar to colon cancer, early detection can prevent cervical cancer cases by finding pre-cancerous lesions. Still, even in North Carolina where coverage for Pap tests is rarely an issue, about 12 % of women have not had recent Pap tests. The best hope for beating cervical cancer is prevention. Now, with vaccines to prevent HPV infections, which cause the majority of cervical cancer cases, we could put an end to cervical cancer. With generous start-up funds from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), that’s what we are trying to do in North Carolina. Leaders for the project are Associate Professors Noel Brewer and Jennifer Smith. They did a superb job of planning and executing yesterday’s event, with help from partners. ¬†We are working in partnership with a variety of public and private organizations, including the N.C. Department of Health.GSK and Merck now produce FDA-approved vaccines for use in girls and women aged 9-26 to prevent HPV infection. The GSK vaccine is given in three separate doses. The point is to vaccinate girls prior to their becoming sexually active, since HPV infection is endemic. As a Kaiser Family Foundation brief advised, the key to reducing cervical cancer incidence will be to assure widespread acceptance of and access to vaccines for all those who might benefit. Voluntary vaccine administration through schools must be an important part of the strategy.As cancer survivor Marie Miranda shared with the audience at yesterday’s event, her life was irrevocably changed, when, as a 28-year-old single woman, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. So far, thank goodness, her story has a happy ending, but that won’t be the case for hundreds of thousands of women around the world.

Time and again, we in NC have shown that we can develop models that work. It’s partly because organizations essential to solving problems come together in this state for the good of the people. In this case, we have the science, technology, funding, right people and will. With those forces aligned, we could end cervical cancer in North Carolina. Now, that’s inspirational!Have a great week! Barbara

Tagged  cancer, vaccine

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