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Each January we observe National Cervical Health Awareness Month. It is a good time to reflect on the groundbreaking advancements that have been made in the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. A diagnosis of cervical cancer was once a death sentence; it is now a preventable and treatable illness. Today, no woman need die from this disease.

Cervical cancer has become the ultimate preventable cancer success story. The Pap test, developed in the late 1920s and first widely used in the 1940s, was adopted as an essential screening tool for early detection and treatment, and in turn lowered the cervical cancer mortality rate by over 70%. More recently, another leap in cervical cancer prevention was made possible with the development of the HPV vaccine.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation is proud to have played an important role in making cervical cancer preventable through funding cutting edge research, educating the public and supporting community outreach programs. Cervical cancer has always been a priority for the Foundation, having been among the first to fund the research of Dr. Anna R. Giuliano, which led to the development of the HPV vaccine. Among the many other cervical cancer researchers we have funded over the past 25 years, the Foundation recently provided a two year grant to Dr. Subhashini Jagu, whose research is focused on developing a low cost HPV vaccine for global use.

Women don’t have to die from cervical cancer, but unfortunately some still do. Cervical cancer remains a leading cause of death among women around the world. In the United States, Hispanic women currently have the highest risk of developing cervical cancer. In 1994, the Prevent Cancer Foundation in partnership with Georgetown University Hospital/Lombardi Cancer Center, the George Washington Cancer Center and the Spanish Catholic Center, created ¡Celebremos la Vida! (Let’s Celebrate Life!), a community outreach program dedicated to providing culturally appropriate cancer-related services to medically underserved Hispanic women. ¡Celebremos! offers both breast and cervical cancer education and screening – providing well over 6,000 Pap tests since its inception. The program also works to ensure that women who need additional medical care are able to receive it, regardless of their financial status. The Foundation also supports Con Amor Aprendemos (With Love We Learn), a community program that works to directly reduce HPV-related diseases in the Hispanic community in Atlanta, Ga. In the area of public education, the Foundation launched the “Confess! Cervical Cancer Awareness Campaign”  to educate all young women about early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. The interactive Web site is designed to increase awareness and encourages women to pledge to get screened for cervical cancer.

We want all women to take advantage of the advancements made in cervical health. Pap tests are essential every two to three years if you are over 21 years old, and the HPV vaccine is highly recommended if you are between 9 and 26 years old. I strongly urge every woman to learn the facts about cervical cancer and talk to her health care professional.

On behalf of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, I wish you a happy – and healthy – 2011!