What You Need To Know About Cervical Cancer Prevention

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. We at Cervivor, a global group of cervical cancer survivors committed to ending cervical cancer, want  you to be aware of this: cervical cancer is completely preventable through vaccination and screening. This January, get familiar with these 5 things to know about cervical cancer prevention.

Know What Causes Cervical Cancer: HPV

  1. Nearly all cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection. Nearly 80 million Americans have HPV at any given time, and about 14 million become newly infected every year. In fact, most sexually active people contract HPV at some point in their lives. The virus spreads easily through skin-to-skin sexual contact; sex doesn’t have to occur for the infection to spread. Most types of HPV don’t post a health risk and don’t cause symptoms, so many people don’t ever know they have it. The good news is: more than 90 percent of all new HPV infections go away on their own, fought off by the body’s immune system. Yet for some women, HPV stay in the body, is not cleared by the immune system, and can lead to cell changes that result in cervical cancer.   

Get the HPV Vaccine for Yourself and/or Your Kids

  1. HPV vaccines have been available in the United States since 2006. These vaccines protect against infection with the HPV types most commonly linked to cancer, as well as some types that can cause genital warts. The vaccine prevents HPV infection – and, as a result, prevents cervical cancer as well as prevents against other cancers related to HPV such as penile cancer, anal cancer, vulvar and vaginal cancer. 
  1. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys ages 11 to 12. At this age, the vaccine is administered in two doses spaced six to 12 months apart. Since this isn’t a school-mandated vaccine, parents need to be proactive and ask their pediatricians and family practice physicians for it.
  1. Older teens and adults also can receive the HPV vaccine. Immune response to the HPV vaccine in adults and older teens is different than in children, so recommendations are for a series of three doses, rather than two. 

Keep Up with Pap & HPV Testing to Catch Any Early Pre-Cancers

  1. Cervical cancer progresses slowly, so don’t skip your pap test! Keeping up with your “well woman” health visits is a proven way to prevent cervical cancer. Certain “high risk” types of HPV cause the cells to progress from a pre-cancer stage to invasive cancer, but that progression can be slow so there is ample opportunity to capture cancer through screening before it develops. Be vigilant about seeing your gynecologist or family physician for Pap testing (which looks for abnormalities caused by HPV) and HPV testing (which looks for the presence of the high-risk strains on HPV). 

The American Cancer Society reports that about 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and about 4,290 women will die from this disease. Worldwide those numbers are as high as 570,000 newly diagnosed and more than 300,000 die annually.

We at Cervivor, survivors of cervical cancer who are living with its aftermath, work to ensure that others do not suffer or die from this very preventable cancer. Screen. Vaccinate. Prevent cervical cancer. Spread the word.

Cervivor School 2019 Was Incredible

Cervivor’s 12th patient advocacy training event in Chicago was one for the books! We had some of the most inspiring and informative speakers during our 2-day event, along with memory-making fun.

Tamika & Lisa

We kicked it off with our Welcome Reception that featured comedian and cervical cancer survivor Lisa Gopman. This wonder women powerhouse made her below-the-belt cancer funny and oh-so relatable, especially to a crowd of Cervivors! Lisa was so inspired by our program and the women she met that she stayed with us for the entire weekend.

Day one was our Wellness Day where Tamika and Lead Advocacy Educator Heather Banks share the importance of growing Cervivor’s footprint and the power of our stories. Honing in on those important messages, we heard from Cervivor Ambassador’s Emily Hoffman and Morgan Newmann on how they found their collective Cervivor voice. In between our sessions, we practiced mindful awareness, restful restoration and reclaimed our Yin energy with Lauren Mansell.

Cervivor Ambassador’s Paulette Apostolou and Carol Lacey presented an interactive session, Healing Through Writing, started by our very own Erica Frasier Stum. We had a another impactful session with Dr. Amy Siston on living through the emotional trauma that is cancer. And for the second year, we heard from the dynamic Roshanda Pratt who talked about knowing our why and how that can propel us in the work we do as Cervivors.

“I’m forever impacted by Cervivor School. I knew it would be inspiring and educational, but I did not expect it to be life changing in terms of how my story goes. I feel braver, stronger and more confident with my story then I ever have been before. I’m no longer leaving it buried like it has been for the last 6 years. Speaking about it in a way that can help educate others makes me feel powerful over cancer. It doesn’t scare me anymore!”
– Cervivor Amy Dent, Australia, Diagnosis: stage 1b1 cervical cancer

We ended the evening with dinner together and our Pajama Jam, where Dr. Siston lead us through a discussion on our bodies after cancer and how that can effect our sexual health. Girl talk after cancer looks and feels different and there is something safe and sacred about being in a room with women who truly ‘get it’.

Day two is our Medical Day where we get the latest and greatest on HPV, the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screening. Dr. Sherrie Wellington started the day talking about cervical cancer disparities and thinking beyond our own communities. Cervical cancer is global issue, and even in our own communities there are so many who do not have access to proper screening or are uninformed about the HPV vaccine. Dr. Wellington used the term, “knowledge gap” and how we as patient advocates can fill that much needed knowledge gap.

Dr. Nita Lee, who was instrumental in helping with this year’s speaker lineup, talked about HPV and it’s connection to cervical cancer. Dr. Lee and Paulette also talked about how Cervivors’ and their oncology team can make the best partnership when it comes to reaching more women in one’s own community. We also heard from Dr. Andrea Loberg and Dr. Marielle Fricchione on cervical cancer screening guidelines and vaccination as presentation.


“I just can’t stop telling people how life changing and powerful it was for me.”
– Cervivor Becky Wallace, California, Diagnosis: Adenosquamous carcinoma stage 1BII

Jennifer Sienko with the American Cancer Society & the HPV Roundtable joined us again this year to talk about being armed and compassionate advocates when it comes to talking about HPV facts. We also heard from Cervivor Ambassador’s Maria Franklin and Tina Vetreno who talked about contributing to Cervivor’s footprint and the importance that the tile ‘Cervivor Ambassador’ holds.

Karla & Maria

We closed out the weekend with Tamika presenting the 2019 Cervivor Champion Award to one of our Leadership team members, Maria Franklin. A much deserved accolade to a woman who tirelessly works in and outside our Latinx community, educating and guiding, as well as managing our Cervivor Espanol site. Congratulations Maria!

Our newest Cervivor School graduates hold the promise of making their survivorship count by using their newfound Cervivor knowledge to educate their communities and beyond. As Maria so passionately said, “Every single one of us has to do our part. Ending cervical cancer is our job.”

Pajama Jam fun!


“Cervivor school showed me what I really have to offer as an ambassador and how to come out of my shell. I left knowing that I was not alone. I learned way more about myself and what I can offer. I felt like I now I am part of something that is going to be a part of changing lives. Cancer will not stop me and that I will be a voice to educate others. I am a fighter and Cervivor School showed me no one is alone. It was the best time and the best learning experience I have had. It definitely changed my life.”
 – Cervivor Tracy Jimenez, Colorado, Diagnosis: Stage 2b

Team Cervivor wishes all our new and returning Ambassador’s much success and wellness as you move through your journey with Cervivor.