Recognizing Cervical Cancer Awareness Month is a first for our newspaper, and likely a first for our community as well. The response to this initiative over the past two years has been positive, and based on the number of requests from local businesses and residents asking for teal ribbons to display, it is safe to say the awareness campaign is a true success.
Kudos to everyone who made the choice to take a stand. The Douglas County Herald is grateful for your participation, and so is Mindy.
Until today’s issue of the Herald, all the cervical cancer stories we have presented to our readers have been positive with an uplifting tone of faith, support, fortitude and tenacity. This week is different.
The local cancer story written this week by Deana Parsick is a bit jarring. This life experience does not follow a positive, happy path as it presents a different viewpoint about the disease –– a heartfelt point of view expressed by a friend, about a friend. The story also alludes to another side of cervical cancer by presenting a face of the disease that we are less inclined to talk about or discuss. And if this offends, please accept our apology.
Today, the medical community knows the importance of awareness and teaching about symptoms of the disease. Promoting early detection is key. But there is still much to overcome, as this topic has been taboo for a long time. And, as it is when dealing with any type of cancer, silence is never a solution or wise option.
In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimated 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer would be diagnosed nationally. Included in the statistic is the fact nearly 4,200 of those women will die from the disease. That is a staggering number given the fact cervical cancer is treatable if detected early enough.
Unfortunately, even in today’s enlightened society, stigmas continue to accompany measures associated with the well-being and health of the female body. Stigmas that stand in the way of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage.
According to patients who have received a cervical cancer diagnosis, the myths associated with the disease are not only accusatory, but unkind and unwarranted. One patient said receiving a cervical cancer diagnosis is like being branded with a Scarlet Letter C, because of all the incorrect public perceptions that accompany the disease.
We’ve all heard it. Or maybe even said it. Judgmental statements that tend to put blame on a patient, or allude to allegations the disease is caused by inappropriate behavior or longstanding promiscuousness. Or, inferences the cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted disease called human papillomavirus (HPV).
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a report states that HPV is so common that nearly everyone gets the virus at some point in their life. Most fight it off and never know they had it. It also notes HPV is not just one virus, but there are approximately 150 different kinds.
In a segment produced by CBS News in 2017, it was stated, “nearly half of American men and women under 60 are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), putting them at risk for certain cancers, federal health officials reported.”
These local women who are willing to share their stories with us are brave. They have experienced something we never want to face or encounter. They have also endured extensive treatment protocols that made them think death was at their doorstep –– if the cancer didn’t kill them, treatment would.
Cervical cancer is an ugly disease that plays host to ugly connotations and accusations –– stigmas society needs to renounce. Instead, focus should be placed upon education and spreading the truth with recommendations for annual check-ups, early detection, medical treatment, and patient survival.
Deana’s article about her friend’s battle with cervical cancer touches upon a different side of the disease and how unfair life can be. It points to the fact there are no guarantees in life –– no matter where we go or what we do, bad things happen to good people. And no matter what the circumstances, cancer is one of those bad things. It is our job to lovingly lend our support and help, no matter what.