The recent Cervical Cancer Coalition of Tennessee (CCCT) conference was held at Nashville’s Bordeaux Library, and it was an amazing success. Every woman (and man) should be educated about this particular strain of cancer for many reasons.
January was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and the CCCT conference covered some of the issues and statistics previously mentioned—all from a presentational format, which made it digestible for this, mixed audience. Founder/CEO Navita Gunter, Executive Director Lydia Cook, three non-profit (501(c)3) organizations, other affiliates and supporters ran the program like a well-oiled machine.
It kicked off with Cook doing the welcome and introduction, followed by important remarks from Gunter, a CCCT information session led by Cook, and then a call presenting an opportunity for donations and how interested parties might donate (openly or anonymously) in the future.
Featured guest entertainers featured poets, vocalists and superior wordsmiths, which kept the crowd going and cheerfully clapping in unison. Industry names included: Frank ‘Frizzy’ Sykes, Mahogany Brown and Soule Williams. The latter two traveled from Alabama to support this landmark event. As with the other program talent, Karima Miller (figuratively) slayed a piece entitled ‘Writers Block.’ Gunter shared a relevant poem ‘Born to Write.’
When the conference’s end drew near, acknowledgments and accolades were given. There was then a call for a moment of silence for every victim lost to cervical cancer, which provoked thoughtful emotion. Before the program, there was a myriad of special thanks to other contributors, volunteers and attendees.
As with most joint efforts and partnerships, it took a village to successfully pull off the conference. The success of the event was due in part to graphic designer Selina Ahnert of ‘True Beginnings Publishing Co.’; William Duke of ‘One Snap Video’; the accommodating Bordeaux Library staff; poets and talent donating their time; and the healthy, tasty refreshments served. Gunter gave a final shout-out to Mahogany Brown and Soule Williams for traveling the distance from Alabama, showing a superior level of commitment.
According to the Cancer Center documented statistics, some of the risk factors include:
Pregnancy — Women who have had three or more full-term pregnancies, or who had their first full-term pregnancy before age 17, are twice as likely to get cervical cancer.
Genetics and family history — Women with a sister or mother who had cervical cancer are two to three times more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Lifestyles and sexual history — Certain types of sexual behavior are considered risk factors for cervical cancer and HPV infection. These include: sex before age 18, sex with multiple partners and sex with someone who has had multiple partners. Studies also show a link between Chlamydia infection and cervical cancer.
Smoking — A woman who smokes doubles her risk of cervical cancer.
Oral contraceptive use — Women who take oral contraceptives for more than five years have an increased risk of cervical cancer, but this risk returns to normal within a few years after the pills are stopped.
Weakened immune system — In most people with healthy immune systems, the HPV virus clears itself from the body within 12-18 months. However, people with HIV or other health conditions or who take medications that limit the body’s ability to fight off infection have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) — Women whose mothers took DES, a drug given to some women to prevent miscarriage between 1940 and 1971, have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
HPV — Though HPV causes cancer, having HPV does not mean you will get cancer. The majority of women who contract HPV clear the virus or have treatment so the abnormal cells are removed. HPV is a skin infection, spread through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the virus.
Additional facts about HPV — There are more than 100 types of HPV, 30-40 of which are sexually transmitted. Of these, at least 15 are high-risk HPV strains that can cause cervical cancer. The others cause no symptoms or genital warts. Up to 80% of women will contract HPV in their lifetime. Men get HPV, too, but there is no test for them.
A healthy immune system will usually clear the HPV virus before there is a symptom, including the high-risk types of HPV. However, only a small percentage of women with high-risk HPV develop cervical cancer.
For more information on coming CCCT events, to support the organization or to volunteer, see their website and social media sites: www.cancercenter.com/cervical-cancer/risk-factors; www.cervicalcancercoalitiontn.org; www.Facebook.com/CervicalCancerCoalitionofTennessee; and on Twitter: @CCCTAwareness.