It’s now been over a year since I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I’m lucky to say I’m cancer-free today. But that doesn’t mean I’m done fighting.
Here’s why: Every two hours, one woman dies of cervical cancer. That is 4,170 women every year that still die of cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. When I learned that stat, I couldn’t believe it. Women are losing their lives to a cancer that’s not only treatable; it is preventable.
I’m fortunate because I have always prioritized getting my annual gynecological exam, so my cancer was detected early enough to be treated effectively. Every woman deserves that chance.
I realize my personal experience isn’t typical. Because of my career as a sports reporter and TV host, I created a lot of buzz once I decided to speak out about my experience. However, it wasn’t until I made it public that it all really sunk in. I remember hearing doctors on the news discuss how serious cervical cancer can be. I received an outpouring of support — football players coming up to me asking if I was okay, women in the stands at the Super Bowl thanking me for talking openly about my experience, and my family and friends checking in to see how they could help.
At first, it felt unnatural for such a personal health issue to be cast publicly for other people to scrutinize. Initially, I’d kept it a secret for two reasons. First, I wanted to believe it wasn’t a huge deal. I was in the middle of busy seasons for both the NFL and “Dancing with the Stars,” and needed to stay focused on my work. But also, I work in sports with a bunch of men. I wasn’t thrilled about discussing my body.
Women are losing their lives to a cancer that’s not only treatable; it is preventable.
What I realized, though, is how privileged I am that I can use my position to influence others. I can help other women to understand how important it is to take an active role in their cervical health. Now, I’m advocating for more women to go to the doctor and get screened regularly for cervical cancer. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), women between the ages of 21 and 29 should receive a Pap test every three years, and women between 30 and 65 should receive a Pap and an HPV test every five years.
To all the women reading this: I know you’re busy. I know many of you feel healthy and strong. So did I. But no matter what, you must make time to see your doctor. Getting tested could save your life, just like it saved mine.
To help get this message out, I’m partnering with Hologic, a company that provides cervical cancer tests used in doctors’ offices around the country. We’re encouraging women to talk to their doctors about all of their available testing options, including getting aPap test and HPV test together, because we have the power to prevent cervical cancer.
Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by going to the doctor for regular checkups and doing the best you can to stay on top of your health. Let’s never let fear or jam-packed schedules get in the way. Together, we can minimize the number of women affected by cervical cancer. It starts with you going to the doctor and getting tested.
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