‘Wipe Out Cervical Cancer’ Alabama Leaders Launch Action Plan to Eliminate Cervical Cancer in Alabama by 2033

Alabama ranks third in the nation in the incidence and deaths from a cancer that can be entirely prevented, cervical cancer. This is especially concerning in our state because free cervical cancer screening is available statewide and there is an effective and long-lasting vaccine that can help prevent it.

The data have not changed in decades. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 240 new diagnoses of cervical cancer in Alabama women in 2023, and 110 deaths. Nearly all of these cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus, HPV. HPV can cause six types of cancer, and sadly more than half of those who get it have never or seldom been screened, and there are great disparities by race and county.

To address this serious public health problem, primary care providers and community leaders from throughout the state convened and developed a statewide action plan to eliminate cervical cancer in Alabama by 2033. The launch of “Operation Wipe Out Cervical Cancer Alabama” was announced at a news conference on May 8.

The statewide plan is the result of a summit held in Birmingham in the fall of 2022, where primary care providers and public health leaders representing 42 of the 67 Alabama counties came together to identify barriers, facilitators, and solutions to cervical cancer prevention and control in Alabama. Partners with the department are the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, TogetHER for Health, Rotary Club of Birmingham, and the American Cancer Society.

The statewide action plan uses evidence-based strategies to promote the three components of cervical cancer prevention and control: HPV vaccination, promotion of cervical cancer screening, and adherence to follow-up in the event of abnormal results found by cervical cancer screening.

HPV vaccinations are a powerful tool to protect children and adolescents before they are exposed to the virus. Many people do not realize that county health departments give the HPV vaccine, and we need to promote awareness of this service. It is very important to vaccinate at the right age to prevent cervical cancer from occurring.

Cervical cancer screening among women 21 to 65 years of age detects abnormal cells in the cervix which can develop into cancer. Appropriate follow-up and treatment for women with abnormal results improves the chance of recovery from cervical cancer.

The launching of the statewide action plan is a historic milestone in the fight against cervical cancer in Alabama. It is an opportunity for all segments of society to get involved, including parents, physicians, business leaders, community-based organizations, public health systems, and academic centers.

Eliminating cervical cancer is in the hands of each one of us. For more information on efforts to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, download the statewide action plan.

Scott Harris, M.D., M.P.H.
State Health Officer