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Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Survivor-turned-advocate saves lives through screenings, education

The deadly disease, which effects women primarily between the ages of 30 and 45, has been on the decline in recent years.
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Posted at 4:10 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 18:10:51-05

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

The deadly disease, which affects women primarily between the ages of 30 and 45, has been on the decline in recent years.

The reduction has been attributed in part to prevention efforts, like the Gardasil vaccine, and education.

Gladys Brown Jones Turnbough raises awareness and directs prevention efforts through her organization Arts & Wellness.

The organization, which was formed in 2015, has provided cervical cancer screening for more than 5,436 women.

The mission is personal for Turnbough, who is a survivor herself.

At a routine doctor's visit at age 61, Turnbough asked her doctor an unusual question for someone her age.

"I asked for a pap smear," said Turnbough. "They reluctantly gave me one, because they said the guidelines didn't require me to have a pap smear."

She wasn't experiencing symptoms at the time, such as pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding.

Turnbough had abnormal pap smears in the past, so she wanted to make sure there was nothing to worry about.

She was shocked to learn that she was diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer.

"I went to instant denial, instant denial," she said.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 20% of cervical cancers are found in women over 65.

Turbough said the treatment process was brutal.

"Chemo and radiation combined together was just almost more than I could bear," she said.

She survived both the treatment and the illness.

"The nurses and the doctor were just clapping and celebrating," said Turnbough.

Turnbough wanted to celebrate as well, by making a difference.

"I asked God, if he would get me through these treatments, how can I give back to the community?" she said.

That's when she got the idea to start the Arts & Wellness organization.

Turnbough said her organization helps uninsured women receive cervical cancer screenings, and it's seeing results from its efforts.

"Uptown Medical Center was our partner last year, and we had 50 ladies to go in," she said. "And we pay the 50 ladies to have their screenings done and out of the 50, eight had abnormal results."

Claudette Sweet, a supporter of Arts & Wellness, said her granddaughter died of cervical cancer after being initially misdiagnosed.

Sweet urges young people to get the HPV vaccine.

According to the CDC, the "HPV vaccination could prevent more than 90% of cancers caused by HPV from ever developing. This is an estimated 33,700 cases in the United States every year."

"Many of our young people don't know about it," said Claudette Sweet. "And we really have to encourage them to get the vaccination hopefully to prevent.

To support the efforts of Arts & Wellness, you can donate here.

The organization is also hosting the 10th Annual Cervical Cancer & HPV Awareness Prevention Campaign Event.

The event takes place on January 27, 2024, at 2 p.m. at Cross Purpose at 3050 Richard Allen Court in Denver.

Tickets are $25 and the funds go towards cervical cancer screenings and education.