This Woman Posted a Photo of Her Cervix to Raise Awareness for Cervical Cancer
Now, one blogger is sharing an image of something even more intimate: her cervix.
After feeling ill for some time and experiencing irregular bleeding, Kiss went to her doctor for a colposcopy, an exam to determine if abnormal cells, typically caused by human papilloma virus, need to be treated. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, and certain strains of it have been linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer.
"I know that having an intimate examination may not be comfortable or desirable," Kiss told Mic, "but I'd rather a moment spent being checked for a lifetime of good health with my children."
After receiving abnormal results on her screening, she posted the image of her cervix alongside a detailed account of her experience as a way to remind people to take control of their own sexual and reproductive health.
"I am currently undergoing treatment for abnormal cervical cells following a routine smear test which picked up on the changes," she wrote in a post on Facebook with the Cervical Cancer Prevention week hashtag #SmearForSmear. "Please don't put it off, lives can be saved."
Thankfully, the results of Kiss' follow-up test were clear; her doctors did, however, recommend she undergo treatment for her abnormal cells to reduce her risk of developing it in the future. According to Kiss, if she hadn't gotten a pap smear, she wouldn't have known she was at risk in the first place.
"I want everybody to know that it doesn't matter what size or shape you are, how much money you have or the weight of your name — cancer can and does happen to everyone and anyone," she said. "Don't wait for symptoms to arise: Take your smear test and protect your health."
She makes a valid point: While a majority of women do undergo regular pap smears, health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that not enough people get the HPV vaccine, thereby putting them at risk for cervical cancer. The death rate from the disease has gone down dramatically over the past several decades, but according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 12,990 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year alone, killing approximately 4,120 American women.
But with vaccination and regular smear tests, cervical cancer is highly preventable. That's exactly what Kiss hopes to remind people with her campaign, and by sharing her own experience.
"Showing my cervix to the world may be seen as shocking to some, but I believe it's the wake-up call that we all need," Kiss added. "This is the reality of how cancer strikes silently within us, and I hope that women worldwide will now be tested and attend their smear appointments because of this."
Feb. 1, 2016, 11:46 a.m.: This story has been updated.