A Mother’s Day Gift: Life

Posted by On May 8, 2015
  Image of Mothers and Children   By Andrea Kirsten-Coleman Whether we call her “ma,” “mom,” “mother” or “mama,” today is the day we acknowledge those women in our lives who gave us life.  Mothers around the world play a vital role in the lives of their children and societies, but cancer, especially cervical cancer, shortens too many of their lives. Each year 266,000 women die from cervical cancer around the world. This is beyond the numbers–each one is a woman, a mother, a sister, an aunty! Cervical cancer is the second-most-common cancer among women worldwide, but the leading cause of cancer death among women in most of sub-Saharan Africa. In the developing world, more women now die from cervical cancer each year than from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. These numbers can and should change, because cervical cancer is preventable.  On this day when we traditionally give gifts of flowers and chocolates to the moms in our lives, let’s also consider giving the gift of knowledge and advice. Armed with the key facts below, we can ensure that more mothers have the opportunity to live long and healthy lives and see their children’s future: Cervical cancer develops from certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). The most-common sexually transmitted infection, HPV, causes virtually all cervical cancers. In many cases, HPV will disappear on its own. In some cases, however, especially in women with compromised immune systems, the virus can cause further health problems, including cervical cancer. It can take decades for cervical cancer to develop from HPV. Therefore, routine screenings can easily reduce the number of cervical cancer cases. Most people with HPV infection don’t know they’re infected, because symptoms never develop. Unlike many cancers, cervical cancer actually has a pre-cancerous stage that is detectable by a non-physician healthcare provider. Periodic screenings ensure a nurse or doctor can find any signs of cervical cancer early, which makes treatment of pre-cancerous lesions much more effective. HPV vaccination significantly reduces the number of women ultimately diagnosed with cervical cancer. Current HPV vaccines can protect against 70 percent of cervical cancer, and early indications are that next-generation vaccines will protect against 90 percent of the strains of the virus. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, estimates 13 lives are saved from cervical cancer for every 1000 girls vaccinated against HPV. Mothers can play a key role in ensuring their daughters get vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 13. The survival rate for cervical cancer is extremely high when the disease is detected at its earliest stage. When found at the earliest stage, cervical cancer has a 91-percent survival rate.  This is one more reason that routine screenings are important. This Mother’s Day, let’s ensure that women know the facts. Let’s give our moms—and ourselves— the gift of a future that includes the women who mean the most to us. Andrea Kirsten-Coleman is the Program Manager, Communications, Development and Partner Outreach for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.