Cancer continues to be one of the greatest health challenges we face in South Carolina, across the nation and around the world. One in three Americans will get cancer in their lifetime—1.7 million will be diagnosed this year and almost 600,000 will die of this disease.
Many cancers seem to strike with little warning, have few symptoms, are poorly understood in terms of causation and leave us with too few options to prevent or treat them. This is not true for cervix cancer. Huge advances in our knowledge have clearly identified the cause in the vast majority of cases—the Human Papilloma Virus. We know this virus also is the cause of many head and neck and ano-genital cancers.
The issues of cervical cancer and human papillomavirus affect everyone—women, men and children of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds.
South Carolina women and men are getting these cancers, and many of them—up to 90 percent or more—could be prevented with the HPV vaccine, a simple, safe and highly effective vaccine. This year alone, 20,000 women and 12,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer. Approximately 300,000 women will have a pre-cancerous lesion of the cervix which will require an invasive procedure to treat. South Carolina ranks 18th in new cervix cancer cases and 11th in cervix cancer deaths in the United States. Almost all of these could have been prevented.
In spite of the alarming statistics and the availability of a preventative and safe vaccine, South Carolinians have been hesitant to get vaccinations for themselves or their children. HPV vaccination in South Carolina lags behind the United States overall. Fewer than 50 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys in South Carolina have received the three doses necessary to fully protect against this cancer-causing virus.
We need to do more to raise awareness about these cancers and the vaccine that can stop them.
Cervical Cancer-Free South Carolina has been working since 2012 to increase awareness of these cancers as well as of HPV and the HPV vaccine.
We urge everyone to consider what they can do to help protect their family members from HPV-related cancers. Get your son or daughter vaccinated. Talk to your friends and family to see if they have heard of the HPV vaccine. Make sure your loved ones are being screened by a health professional and getting educated about their options.
Even one death is too many from this preventable disease. Let’s work together to make South Carolina Cervical Cancer Free.