- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Let's be honest: Many of us have been putting off getting Pap and HPV exams for cervical cancer because of the pandemic. We get it. But a new campaign from the Black Women’s Health Imperative, Hologic’s Project Health Equality, and Grammy-winning singer Ciara is here to put you back on schedule with your ob-gyn.
To Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, having the artist as the campaign face was important because it meant speaking to Black women “the way they talk among themselves about their health.” While Ciara may not be a medical professional, you don’t need to be a doctor to know it's important to schedule your screening and prioritize your health.
“We think it's way more complex and complicated than it really is,” Ciara says of her former attitude around screening. “But it doesn't take long.”
Every two minutes a woman dies from cervical cancer—but, according to the American Cancer Society, Black women are twice as likely to die from the disease. This is an unnecessary tragedy when you consider that, unlike other cancers, cervical cancer is preventable.
“There's no biological or genetic determinant for this,” says Blount. “While Black women may tend to get cervical cancer a little bit younger, they're getting it diagnosed and detected at a later stage, when it's harder to treat.”
The campaign aims to give Black women agency in their reproductive health, leaning on sisterhood through social media posts with the hashtag #CervingConfidence. Cancer is a scary thing to talk about, but it becomes easier to face by sharing stories and encouraging your loved ones to get tested.
After learning about how lethal the lack of screening can be for Black women, Ciara wanted to use her platform to inform about self-care through reproductive health. She also wants to be a role model for her four-year-old daughter Sienna Princess Wilson, to encourage Sienna to take value in her own health.
“After having kids, I've been way more intentional when it’s about my life,” Ciara says. ”It's important for me to be here for my daughter and my daughter's daughters—if she has a daughter one day—and for many other young girls around the world.”
Because early cervical cancer and the HPV don’t have symptoms you would recognize, it has to be examined on a cellular level after an ob-gyn, nurse practitioner, or family practice physician sends the samples to a lab. Ob-gyn Jessica Shepherd says that between ages 21 and 29, women should schedule a Pap screening every three years. From age 30 to 65, women should start ”co-testing,” or receiving an HPV screening along with their Pap smear. She adds that immune systems in people under age 30 have a greater chance of regressing HPV on their own, and the risk for cervical cancer significantly decreases past age 65.
Both tests detect abnormality of cells on the cervix, says Shepherd. While the Pap focuses on the severity of the abnormality, the HPV swab tests whether the patient is HPV positive or negative. A common miscommunication is that an abnormal test result has to do with promiscuity, causing shame or guilt.
“I think that we need to change that narrative, and help people understand the importance of the Pap test and HPV and not be embarrassed by or ashamed of taking care of your reproductive health,” says Shepherd.
HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer, is the most common STI in the United States, according to the CDC. Shepherd says 8 out of 10 women will contract HPV at some point in their life—by no means is it a death sentence, but early identification is crucial to prevent and treat cervical cancer.
“This mission is to inform all of our beautiful Black sisters everywhere about, one, how amazing you are and, two, how we need to love on ourselves,” Ciara says. “That's a part of that Black joy—that strength, that beauty, and that special sauce that's within all of us. We’ve got to make sure we maintain that, be on top of our game, and be able to serve confidence.”
Details about the campaign and more resources can be found at cerving.bwhi.org.
Originally Appeared on Glamour