Now that I have raised the ire of anyone who now has cervical cancer, or has survived, or has lost a loved one to this disease, let me delve further into the importance of ending the focus on cervical cancer.
I am certainly not insensitive to the issue of cervical cancer. I myself have dealt with precancerous lesions of the cervix. Neither am I lacking in empathy for those who are survivors, I am a survivor myself -- twice!
The fact still remains that cervical cancer is diagnosed in approximately half a million women across the globe each year and that half of that number succumb to the disease on an annual basis.
There are significant organizations whose sole focus is the prevention of cervical cancer, and they work tirelessly to educate others and raise money for everything from research to the development of educational materials and, in some cases, even patient assistance.
Cancer is a term which still strikes fear in the hearts and minds of most people diagnosed with it and even those who aren’t, but I don’t think anyone with cervical cancer would align themselves with groups fighting lung cancer, pancreatic cancer or colon cancer.
While the commonality which exists because they are also a form of cancer there is a significant difference. That difference is the fact that cervical cancer, unlike the other cancers mentioned, is the result of a virus -- the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Cervical cancer was the first cancer identified in 1983 as being the result of HPV (HPV16). The connection was only strengthened in 1984 when a second strain of HPV (HPV18) was also identified as the cause of cervical cancer.
Between the two strains alone, they combine to account for approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers. Various other strains of the human papillomavirus make up the difference, bringing the total of all cervical cancers attributed to HPV to 99.9 percent.
Since the approval of the first HPV vaccine (Gardasil) in 2006, its manufacturer Merck Pharmaceuticals has initiated numerous public education campaigns aimed at driving home the connection between the human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.