With a new Facebook application, you can find out just that. Though not an actual prediction of which of your friends will be diagnosed with the cancer, the app will demonstrate the impact cervical cancer could potentially have on your social circle.
By visiting www.causethemovement.org and accessing the app, you will witness a powerful simulation as friends’ profile pictures are randomly selected and then darkened to reveal the percentage of people who will likely die from the disease.
In an effort to increase awareness of cervical cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, the Cervical Cancer Free Kentucky program launched the Facebook campaign in January during Cervical Cancer Awareness month.
“The Cervical Cancer Free Kentucky app is eye-opening,” said Ashley Schaffner, a communications professional living in Crescent Hill. “It points a statistically-sound finger at the women I love who could potentially die from cervical cancer.”
In an effort to reach a younger audience in Kentucky, Dr. Baretta R. Casey, director of the Cervical Cancer-Free Kentucky initiative, and her team decided to take on the internet and the social networking website utilized by more than 800 million people worldwide.
“We just really wanted to get the message and the truly peer-reviewed science behind cervical cancer out to the community in Kentucky,” said Casey. “We wanted to reach our younger population and adults and thought we would do that through the Facebook application.”
Kentucky has the eighth highest rate of cervical cancer in the nation, which is why education on receiving a regular pap test and the HPV vaccine is critical, Casey said.
HPV has been considered the primary cause of cervical cancer, but with the vaccine, a three-shot series, the occurrence of cervical cancer can almost virtually be wiped away.
“There is more than one (vaccine) on the market,” Casey said. “We just want people to get immunized and talk about the immunization. Currently, its recommended by the CDC for girls ages 9 to 11 and boys ages 11 to 12. They really say that anybody between ages 9 and 26 should get it. It’s a very safe immunization. I’m not asking anybody to do something I wouldn’t do myself or don’t believe in.”
Though the HPV vaccine is the only anti-cancer vaccine available to humans and can prevent more than 90 percent of cervical cancer cases when coupled with regular pap tests, fewer than one in nine eligible Kentucky females have received the full three-shot vaccine series. Just as alarming, about a fifth of Kentucky women 18 and older haven’t had a Pap test in the last three years.
“I did share the app on my Facebook page a couple times, so the women in my life might pay attention,” she said. “The app is pretty dramatic. I actually scheduled an appointment with my gyno and had a pap test last week – the first one I’d had in two years.”
Gina Woods of Russell Springs, Ky. can also attest to the importance of receiving regular pap exams. In 2008, at the age of 52, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and underwent an abdominal hysterectomy.
“When I got diagnosed it was very early,” Woods said. “I had (pap smears done) religiously. If I had waited two years (the cancer) could have spread to other places. I did not have to do chemo or radiation. The biggest issue for me was just the pain of having that abdominal surgery and being a nurse I wasn’t ready to go back to work.”
Now cancer-free, Woods was unable to work for eight weeks following her surgery – a small price to pay, compared to the many women who waited too late to visit their doctor only to discover an advanced form of cancer.
Cervical cancer is estimated to kill 10 people each day, but the majority of women who die from the cancer either failed to get a pap test or had them done too infrequently.
Since Woods’ experience, she has encouraged others to become proactive with their health and emphasizes how preventable and treatable cervical cancer can be, but that annual exams are crucial.
“If we have a vaccine I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t get it,” she said. “And there’s no reason to not get your exam. There were several (women I know) who hadn’t gone to the doctor. They had excuses like we don’t have insurance or we haven’t had any children. It could still happen to them. I tell them look what happened to me. I’m the reason you go.”
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.