Cancer Awareness Day

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January 19, 2023

The Importance of Cancer Awareness

Georgia’s 6th Annual Cervical Cancer Awareness Day

The Awareness Day at the Georgia State Capitol was sponsored by Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (Georgia OBGyn), American Cancer Society, Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia (HHCGA), Cancer Pathways, Augusta University Medical Partnership (University of Georgia). The day is part of an effort together with ongoing initiatives designed to increase HPV vaccinations throughout Georgia, through increased education and advocacy’

The in-person attendees of the Cervical Cancer Awareness Day

ATLANTA, January 19, 2023, /News outlet/ -- Georgia State Capitol, Dr. Brian Boyce, MD, FACS, and Co-Chair HPV Cancer Free Workgroup, extended a welcome to in-person attendees and those who were participating via webinar. Dr Boyce began by asking the question,Have you known, or do you know, someone impacted by cervical cancer?” More than 90% of the in-person attendees responded “yes”, and 76% of the webinar participants also responded with a “yes” to the question. Dr. Boyce then pointed out that responses to the question clearly indicated the broad impact that cervical cancer has throughout Georgia. He then said, “a big thank you for everybody for taking time out of your busy schedules today, so we can join together and raise awareness about an issue that we are all concerned about and important to us all, which is cervical cancer.”   

The agenda for the day featured an excellent lineup of dynamic speakers in the field of cervical cancer and HPV vaccination. Dr. Boyce introduced the first of the presenters by saying, “Since we are back at the Georgia State Capitol, it would only be appropriate to have representative Teri Anulewicz, District 42, as the first of our speakers. Representative Anulewicz has been a staunch supporter of our cancer awareness day for many years now. She is actually sponsoring a resolution in the House of Representatives to officially recognize today, January 19, as cervical cancer awareness day in Georgia for 2023.”  

The organizers and sponsors of the forum

Representative Anulewicz pointed out that every year on the floor of the house, when she shares the latest cervical cancer statistics with her colleagues, some still say they are amazed, and every year the question is asked. “You mean there is a vaccine for this?” She said her response is, “I’m like yes, there is. Both of my teenagers have had both their doses. It’s very important. You know it’s key.” She then went on to read the resolution before the house recognizing the contributions of various champions in providing screening for HPV and delivering the HPV vaccine. The resolution underlined the emphatic success of the HPV vaccine in that 95% of all cervical cancers can be prevented by the vaccine. It was further acknowledged by the resolution the reality that more black and Hispanic women get HPV-associated cervical cancer than women of other races and ethnicities.

Dr. Joy Baker, MD, FACOG, Chair. Dept of OB/GYN, WellStar West GA Medical Center, was the next distinguished speaker. Dr. Baker began by asking everybody to imagine a cervical cancer-free Georgia. “What would that look like?” She asked. In contrast, however, Dr. Baker said, “lots of women are getting cervical cancer every year, and about 4,200 of those women are going to die, and in 2021 our statistics show that 140 Georgia women died from cervical cancer.” Perhaps alarmingly but certainly a sobering fact, Dr. Baker said, “So about 6 million new infections of HPV happen every year, and guess where they’re happening - in our young people, right!” That is why vaccination is so important.” She addressed the prevailing issue of the factors that drive racial disparities and cervical cancer screening diagnosis and treatment, particularly for women who live outside of the metropolitan area. Four key points were highlighted by her research and could be summarized thus: 1, There is a lack of access to affordable care; 2, Lack of GYN access in over half of GA counties; 3, Lack of information on HPV vaccine, screening recommendations; 4, Impact of racism and discrimination (provider distrust, healthcare system distrust. Dr. Baker emphasized the importance of reviving Reproductive Health Education in GA schools and prioritizing GYN care in neglected communities among the prerequisites for a State where no one dies from Cervical Cancer.

HPV and Cancer Workgroup

We then heard from a cancer survivor and recognized the 2023 HPV Champions. The next speaker was Dr. Ashley Hannings, PharmD, BCACP, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy. She began by sharing a few facts about the current HPV vaccine identified as 9vHPV (Gardasil 9), so named because it covers nine different serotypes of the HPV virus that account for over 90% of cervical cancers.

We were treated to a lively and at the same time, informative presentation by Triana Arnold James, Founder of The Susan Jolley Awareness Program. Miss James is the creator and founder of the Georgia Cervical Cancer Awareness Day. She started this 9 years ago by coming to the Capitol and advocating for better funding for more access, awareness, and knowledge about cervical cancer in Georgia.     

The day ended with a call to action. There are ways in which we can all assist in driving up HPV vaccination rates and, by so doing, work towards eradicating and eliminating cervical cancer here in Georgia and the United States and across the World. We must all talk to family members and friends and direct them to reliable sources of HPV vaccination information. 

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