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Home Cervical Cancer Cervical Cancer Survey: Many Women Don’t Know Cervical Cancer is Preventable

Survey: Many Women Don’t Know Cervical Cancer is Preventable

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A new survey released today by the American Social Health Association (ASHA), in conjunction with the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), suggests that many Raleigh women lack an understanding about cervical cancer and the tools available to prevent it.

Despite the availability of techniques that can help avoid almost every case of cervical cancer, only 55 percent of Raleigh women believe this disease is preventable, according to the findings. The results were presented today at a briefing for Raleigh-area women’s and health advocacy organizations. The event was hosted by the NCWO, in partnership with ASHA and Cervical Cancer-Free North Carolina, a program of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. woman

An online survey, fielded by Russell Research, was conducted among 504 Raleigh-area women ages 21 - 65 during October and November 2010. The survey explored local women’s awareness of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, and the tools available to prevent the disease – the Pap test, the HPV test and the HPV vaccine. A Pap test detects abnormal cells caused by HPV that can lead to cervical cancer, while the HPV test checks for “high-risk” types of the virus itself – identifying women most at risk of developing cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against the two types of HPV that cause approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers. Key findings include:

• While most women (89 percent) knew that a Pap test looks for cervical cancer, many falsely believe it also looks for sexually transmitted diseases (52 percent), ovarian cancer (51 percent) and yeast infections (38 percent). Further, only 1 in 5 women (19 percent) knew that women should begin getting Pap tests at age 21.

• Even though the HPV test is recommended, along with a Pap test, in women age 30 and older, only 4 percent of women knew this. Additionally, 52 percent of women age 30 and older said their doctor or nurse has not spoken with them about HPV testing.

• When it comes to the HPV vaccine, most women (77 percent) knew that it is recommended for girls and young women ages 9 to 26. Additionally, 79 percent of respondents correctly knew that women should continue to be screened even if they have been vaccinated against HPV.

• Although most women (84 percent) have been screened with a Pap test within the last 3 years, among those who haven’t, lack of health insurance was the most commonly cited reason.

“Our findings suggest that Raleigh-area women need more information about cervical cancer, which is virtually preventable with the Pap test, the HPV test and the HPV vaccine,” said Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of ASHA. “We believe more work is needed to educate women in the Raleigh area about cervical cancer prevention and to ensure they have access to tools that can prevent it.”

“Cervical cancer is preventable, if every woman knows about and benefits from the tools now available to protect them from this disease,” said Susan Scanlan, chair of NCWO. “We want more Raleigh-area women to learn about this disease, and to show their support during January, which is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. They can do this by wearing a Pearl of Wisdom, the global symbol for cervical cancer prevention, and starting the conversation with the women in their lives.”

The Pearl of Wisdom is a symbol promoted by the Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer, a united, global effort dedicated to raising awareness about this disease and its prevention. NCWO and ASHA are both partners in the campaign. Pearl of Wisdom pins can be purchased at the campaign’s website, with all proceeds going to fund U.S.-based cervical cancer prevention activities. Women can also wear their own pearls to show support.

Another finding from the ASHA-led survey was that the majority of women (71 percent) also believed that public health officials should do more to prevent cervical cancer. “By partnering with government and community stakeholders, Cervical Cancer-Free North Carolina is helping to increase use of the HPV vaccine and screening throughout the state,” said Noel T. Brewer, Ph.D., associate professor, UNC Gillings School of Public Health, and director of CCFNC. “Together, we can end cervical cancer.”

The survey was funded with an educational grant provided to ASHA by QIAGEN, makers of the digene HPV Test.