Putting Women's Health First Aims to Educate Women


Today, Putting Women's Health First launched a national campaign to educate women about cervical cancer, the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) role in its development, and the importance of effective screening in preventing the disease.

Press Contacts:
Elizabeth Buchanan, 202-557-7692 or Elizabeth@spitfirestrategies.com
Rachel Leed, 202-557-7693 or Rachel@spitfirestrategies.com
Shannon Henderson, 678-417-1767 or shannon@ethoscommunication.com

Washington, DC - February 20, 2003 - Today, Putting Women's Health First launched a national campaign to educate women about cervical cancer, the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) role in its development, and the importance of effective screening in preventing the disease. According to a recent Wirthlin Worldwide survey, women do not currently get the level of up-to-date information they need to protect their health. More than 200 doctors have already signed up with the campaign and pledged to provide women with the information they need to better protect their health. 

The campaign will focus on educating women about cervical cancer prevention, including new medical guidelines regarding screening for the disease. In the U.S., approximately 12,200 women will be diagnosed with the disease this year and almost 4,100 women will die from it. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most prevalent form of cancer among women, affecting 400,000 women annually. Yet cervical cancer is highly preventable when optimal testing is used, and highly treatable if detected early. HPV is now recognized as the primary cause of the cancer, and accurate tests are available to detect HPV's presence. Putting Women's Health First will help women prevent cervical cancer by: 

  • Addressing fears and providing accurate information about HPV, a common sexually-transmitted virus that typically clears up on its own. 
    Providing information and clear explanations about current medical findings and advances in screening technology. 
  • This information can help women and their doctors determine how HPV testing fits into their own plan for cervical cancer screening, particularly for the more than two million women each year who are diagnosed with borderline abnormalities in their Pap test. 

"Knowing about HPV and how it impacts her potential risk status can empower a woman to take better control of her reproductive health," said Marie Savard, MD, a campaign supporter and author of How to Save Your Life. "After all, better informed women can make better healthcare decisions in conjunction with their provider - helping to produce the best possible health outcomes." 

Research Shows Women Want More Information
A fall 2002 Wirthlin Worldwide survey of women age 18 and older found that 68 percent of respondents have never of heard of HPV. Additionally, while 85 percent of women surveyed feel strongly that their doctor should give them information about HPV and its link to cervical cancer, 70 percent of women said their doctor has never discussed the topic with them. A recent meeting of women's health experts recommended a broad-based effort to educate women and members of the medical community on these topics. "Women want and have a right to more information about HPV and its relationship to cervical cancer, but too often they may not get it," said Mark DeFrancesco, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Women's Health Connecticut, the largest women's health practice in the United States, and an early campaign participant. "As clinicians, we all have to take the lead in having 'the HPV conversation' with our patients. We must also encourage all members of the healthcare community to play their part." 

New Guidelines Give Women Information They Need to Protect Their Health
The campaign reinforces an increasing amount of clinical data that supports HPV testing. Recent publications by The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Cancer Society and The Journal of the American Medical Association provide guidance to healthcare providers and their patients on HPV testing and its role in cervical cancer screening.

Previously, many healthcare providers lacked accurate direction or information to discuss cervical cancer and its causes with their patients. In addition, doctors are often reluctant to discuss HPV with their patients due to its prevalence, and because the vast majority of HPV cases clear on their own without leading to cancer. "Now doctors have a clear framework for discussing HPV testing with their patients and incorporating it into their care," said Maureen Killackey, MD, Director of the Basset Cancer Program in New York and Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University. "These guidelines can help doctors match cervical cancer screening to each patient's needs, so that women at a high risk level can be tested more frequently. That kind of clearly defined strategy is essential to good patient care." 

Campaign Partners & Supporters
By partnering with clinicians, employers, advocacy groups, and others who are taking the lead in women's health issues, Putting Women's Health First will reach women at home, at work and in the community. To date, more than 200 physicians, as well as organizations such as the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and Women's Health Connecticut, have signed up to support the campaign by sharing important information about HPV and cervical cancer with their patients and members. 

The campaign is also reaching out to women directly to give them the most important facts about preventing cervical cancer, and to provide them with key questions to ask their doctors regarding their own risk level, including: 

  • "What do I need to know about HPV and cervical cancer?" 
  • "Do you provide HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening?"
  • "When do I next need to be screened for cervical cancer?" 
    Putting Women's Health First will use the media, the Web (www.puttingwomenshealthfirst.org), brochures, events and other communications to help spread the word about this important area of women's reproductive health. 

About Putting Women's Health First
Putting Women's Health First is a public education program comprised of leading healthcare providers, advocacy groups, employers and others who are getting important cervical cancer information to women. It draws together numerous members of the healthcare community to address a need that all agree is important - bringing better cervical cancer screening to women and educating women about HPV and its link to cervical cancer. The program is supported by Digene Corporation, in coordination with partners including the National Cervical Cancer Coalition. 

Note to Editors: The Wirthlin Worldwide study, articles and guidelines referenced in this release, and camera-ready graphics and content on HPV testing are available at www.puttingwomenshealthfirst.org.

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