History & Facts every woman should know
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, which serves as a beacon of hope, education, and advocacy in the global fight against Cervical Cancer. The goal of this dedicated Month is to raise Awareness about Cervical Cancer, its prevention, and the importance of early detection. In this blog post, we will explore the history, background, and purpose of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and the critical role it plays in the ongoing battle against this preventable and often treatable disease.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical Cancer is a type of Cancer that affects the cells of the cervix, which is the lower, narrow end of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
The cervix is composed of two distinct parts: the endocervix, which is the opening that leads to the uterus and is covered by glandular cells, and the exocervix, which is the outer part of the cervix and is covered in squamous cells. The transformation zone is where these two types of cells meet.
Most Cervical Cancers originate in this area and can be divided into two main types: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. The leading cause of Cervical Cancer is prolonged infection with specific types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
Usually, Cervical Cancer progresses slowly, and the cervix undergoes dysplasia, a process in which abnormal cells appear in the Cervical tissue.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer may include vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause. Menstrual bleeding may also be heavier and last longer than usual, and there may be watery, bloody vaginal discharge with a foul odor. Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse may also occur.
The history of Cervical Cancer
In the early 1900s, Cervical Cancer claimed over 40,000 lives annually in the United States. Georgios Papanicolaou, a Greek scientist, pioneered cytology, studying guinea pigs’ sex chromosomes in 1916. His subsequent work on human volunteers in the 1920s revealed differences between normal and malignant Cervical cells under a microscope.
Facing initial skepticism, Papanicolaou persisted and, in 1939, collaborated on a clinical trial diagnosing 179 Cancer cases, 127 of which were Cervical Cancer. The Pap test, developed by Papanicolaou and refined by Dr. J Ernest Ayre in 1949, revolutionized Cervical Cancer screening.
Cervical Cancer screening became a standard part of Women’s Healthcare in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1990s, liquid-based cytology methods enhanced Pap testing, offering efficient alternatives for detecting Cervical Cancer.
When did Cervical Cancer Awareness Month start?
The reason or exact year that January was chosen as the Month for Cervical Cancer Awareness is unknown . However, January 1997 is believed to be the first time that the United States Congress observed Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The initiative aimed to increase public Awareness of Cervical Cancer, its prevention, and the importance of early detection. Since then, various organizations and Women’s Healthcare providers worldwide have joined the global movement to raise Awareness about Cervical Cancer during the Month of January.
The Importance of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
Approximately 0.7% of women are at risk of developing Cervical Cancer at some point in their lives, underscoring the importance of taking proactive measures. Cervical Cancer Awareness Month provides a crucial opportunity to address the alarming prevalence of this disease.
In 2020, 297,000 women in the United States were living with Cervical Cancer, highlighting the magnitude of the issue. These statistics reveal a significant annual rate of new cases and deaths: 7.7 cases and 2.2 deaths per 100,000 women, respectively.
In 2023, there were an estimated 13,960 new cases of Cervical Cancer, resulting in the loss of 4,310 lives.
Alarmingly, the average age of diagnosis is fifty, and more than 20% of Cervical Cancer cases occur in women over sixty-five. Therefore, it is crucial to raise Awareness through campaigns that target all age groups.
Emphasizing early detection strategies during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month is crucial. Regular screening, vaccination initiatives, and increased Awareness are essential in reducing the impact of Cervical Cancer. These statistics serve as a reminder of the challenges women face. They emphasize the urgency of prioritizing comprehensive Women’s Health strategies and supporting initiatives that enhance Cervical Cancer Awareness and prevention.
The historical strides made by pioneers like Georgios Papanicolaou have paved the way for advancements in detection methods, emphasizing the significance of early intervention. The statistics highlight the urgent need for collective action to address this preventable disease. By promoting regular screening, vaccination initiatives, and informative campaigns, we can work towards a future where Cervical Cancer is not only treatable but also preventable. As women, let us unite in our commitment to continuous learning and self-care, striving towards a world where every woman can lead a healthy and cancer-free life.
- Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: History of the First Cancer Screening Test | Masonic Cancer Center (umn.edu)
- What is Cervical Cancer? – NCI