This is the perfect time for doctors and pharmacists to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from the human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, and cervical cancer. HPV is not only a major cause of cervical cancer – it is also the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted disease. An estimated 79 million Americans are living with HPV, and many of them don’t realize they are infected.
The good news for patients is – HPV can be prevented with a vaccine – and cervical cancer may be prevented with regular Pap smear screening tests and adequate follow-up care. Regular cervical cancer screenings help detect abnormal cells before they mutate into cancer.
Cervical Health Awareness Month helps give doctors and pharmacists spread the word about the things women can do to ensure they are healthy. As pharmacists, you can:
- Talk to women patients and encourage them to visit their doctor or gynecologist for a women’s health check-up.
- Make sure women know that under the new healthcare reform, women’s health services are covered – usually at no cost, depending on their insurance.
- Talk to parents about making sure their pre-teen gets the HPV vaccine. Be ready to answer questions, and provide guidance about getting free or reduced cost vaccinations.
With the toolkit available from the Department of Health and Human Services at HealthFinder.gov, pharmacies have all the tools they need to make raising awareness about cervical cancer easy. Here are a few more ideas:
- If your pharmacy has a newsletter or an email newsletter, add information about HPV, cervical cancer, and prevention in the January issue.
- If your pharmacy uses social media, tweet and post on Facebook, Google+, and other social media networks. The toolkit has a number of pre-loaded sample tweets you can use on your accounts.
- Add a badge to your pharmacy’s website. There are several badges and codes available with the toolkit, so all you have to do is reach out to your webmaster with the code.
- Reach out to local groups, such as cancer networks or your local community health clinics to host a community event designed to help raise awareness. Talk to local radio stations about airing Cervical Cancer Awareness Month public service announcements.
- Host a fundraising event and donate proceeds to organizations that provide free screenings. Gather a list of clinics in your area that provide free screenings, and ask a few of them to host free or reduced fee screenings on a certain day.
- If there isn’t one already available in your local area, consider starting a local National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) chapter in your community.
By becoming a trusted source of information, pharmacists can help educate and prevent cervical cancer in the future.