Global statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer indicate that in 2012, gynecologic cancers accounted for 16% of the 6.6 million estimated new cases and 14% of the 3.5 million cancer related deaths among women. That means that 1 million women will be diagnosed this year with cancers below the belt and a woman will lose her battle with this disease almost every minute of every day. Cervical cancer accounted for 527,000 new cases and for 239,000 deaths. Although cervical cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer related death across the globe, it is the number one cause of cancer related deaths in some parts of Africa. Prevention of cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine is one of the best strategies to address the increasing problem of cervical cancer, particularly for low income countries. Unfortunately, only one third of eligible girls have received all 3 doses of the HPV vaccine in the U.S. This lack of compliance is increased among underserved groups such as African Americans. Public mistrust of the HPV vaccine has been fueled by information that is often misleading. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, a national database maintained by the CDC, has analyzed severe events and not found any causative relationships. In order to optimize public opinion and enhance compliance, it’s important to clarify additional misperceptions about the safety of the vaccine.
Our educational strategies should not stop with cervical cancer but extend to risk reduction, screening, prevention and seeking specialty care for all women’s cancer below the belt. Using social media and other forms of contemporary communication, we have an unprecedented opportunity to have a quick and effective impact. The Globe-athon to End Women’s Cancers is a grass roots effort aimed at rallying physicians, advocates, patients and their families in a worldwide call to action to raise attention regarding gynecological cancer. Since its inception in 2013, Globe-athon has organized events and collaborative outreach efforts in over 80 countries around the world. This past year, Globe-athon hosted a symposium on the eradication of cervical cancer at the United Nations. At this forum held in the Economic and Social Counsel chamber, multiple physician leaders, cancer advocates, and politicians convened to inform political leaders of this escalating global problem. A call to action was voiced by a number of ambassadors and this type of political activism will be essential to improved education and awareness campaigns locally and across the globe. On World Cancer Day, February 4th, 2016, Globe-athon and other advocacy groups supported the screening of a film entitled “Lady Ganga” at the United Nations. The film documents a woman with progressive cervical cancer (Michelle) who travels to India to set a world record by paddle boarding down the Ganges River before returning home where she ultimately lost her battle with this disease. The film is now being promoted by Globe-athon and other advocacy organizations in order to further amplify the outreach educational efforts, encourage women to seek preventive care, and continue to solicit the call to action.
To see the “Lady Ganga” film, go to www.ladyganga.org.
To learn more about Globe-athon, go to www.globeathon.com and share some of the Globe-athon videos below with friends and patients:
Larry Maxwell, MD, FACOG, COL(ret) U.S. Army is the Director of the Globe-athon to End Women’s Cancers