Organised cervical cancer screening programmes can prevent up to 80% of cervical cancers. In addition, vaccines against the Human papillomavirus (HPV) are highly effectively when given to adolescents and can reduce cervical cancer rates even further.
So why, when we could prevent almost every case of cervical cancer, do 60,000 women develop and 30,000 women die from this disease every year in Europe? There are two main reasons:
1. Many countries still do not have effective cervical screening and HPV vaccination programmes so people in these countries just do not have access to them,
2. Even where these programmes are in place, many women have not been made aware of their importance so they do not use them.
The European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (CCPW) was launched to address these problems by organising events to raise awareness of cervical cancer and how it can be prevented among 3 primary target audiences:
The general public: people must have a good understanding of the benefits of cervical screening and HPV vaccination to motivate use of these services where they are available,
Health care providers: doctors, nurses and other health care providers must have accurate and up-to-date information about cervical screening and HPV vaccination so they can answer questions from their patients and encourage them to use these services,
Politicians: political leaders must be informed about the benefits of cervical screening and HPV vaccination so they understand the importance of prioritising these programmes.
For any health campaign to be successful, it is essential for people to be able to recognise it among all the other things that are competing for their attention. Therefore, the Pearl of Wisdom was created as a unique symbol the public can use to identify the Cervical Cancer Campaign. To date, over 1 million Pearl of Wisdom pins have been distributed across Europe and they have become an essential part of the events held during the CCPW. (www.PearlofWisdom.eu)
During the CCPW held in January 2012, over 3,000 events were held across Europe. These events communicated an enormous amount of information to women and adolescents, helping them to understand the importance of cervical cancer prevention and motivating them to use these services where they are available. These events also raised awareness among politicians and helped to increase the priority given to the implementation cervical cancer prevention programmes in countries where they are not currently available.