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Singer and entertainer Ciara Wilson is using her voice to raise awareness about cervical cancer and what women can do to prevent it. Photo provided by BWHI
  • Singer Ciara Wilson is speaking out about how cervical cancer disproportionately affects Black women.
  • Black women in the United States are twice as likely to die from cervical cancer than white women.
  • Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer than any other racial group.

Grammy-winning entertainer Ciara is taking center stage to spread awareness about cervical cancer and HPV screening.

“The greatest thing for me was being educated on how cervical cancer is impacting Black women in particular… I don’t think that what I do is just about singing and dancing and getting cute in my glam and all that stuff. All that is fun and amazing and a big part of why I love what I do, but I believe in the power of a platform,” Ciara told Healthline.

After learning that Black women are twice as likely to die from cervical cancer compared to white women, and that Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer than any other racial group, Ciara decided to use her popularity for good.

She teamed up with Cerving Confidence, a collaboration between the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) and Hologic’s Project Health Equality to encourage Black women to schedule their well-woman exams and protect themselves against cervical cancer.

The campaign offers information about cervical cancer and screening access to help prevent cervical cancer in Black women, as well as tips for how to prepare for an annual well-woman exam, such as questions to ask your doctor.

“There’s nothing better than being on top of your health and being confident in your health, and that’s what this campaign is about,” said Ciara.

She encourages all women to call their doctor and schedule a Pap smear and HPV screening.

“[Get] it done, it’s so easy… I think sometimes psychologically for us as women we’re like ‘ugh, here we go,’ but it goes so fast when you go, and just get it done and being able to know that and understand how simple it is and being able to check off this one box is huge,” Ciara said.

The cervix connects the vagina to the upper part of the uterus. Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix.

At a well-woman exam, your doctor can perform the following screening tests, which help find cervical cancer early or prevent it:

  • Pap test (also called Pap smear) detects precancerous cells and cell changes on the cervix that can turn into cervical cancer, if left untreated.
  • HPV test detects the human papillomavirus, which can cause cell changes on the cervix.

Nearly all people will get HPV during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HPV is contracted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. While 9 out of 10 HPV cases go away on their own, sometimes it will last longer. Some types of HPV can cause cancer, including cervical cancer.

“You may not even know you have [HPV] because the virus can stay undetected in your system for years. That’s why it’s so important to visit a doctor and get tested,” Dr. Jessica Shepherd told Healthline.

Shepherd said women ages 21 to 29 should receive routine Pap testing while women 30 to 65 should receive co-testing, which is a Pap test and HPV test together.

“It is the benefit of two tests with just one sample and detects nearly all cervical cancers… as many women have delayed screening due to the pandemic, it is increasingly important to schedule your regular well-woman exam,” said Shepherd.

In addition to screening, the HPV vaccine is available for everyone 9 to 26 years old.

According to the CDC, as many as 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination.

Cerving Confidence is an extension of Project Health Equality, a collaboration that addresses the structural and cultural barriers that prevent Black and Hispanic women in the United States from receiving quality healthcare.

The project identifies communities in need and brings them clinical care, such as health screenings (including cervical cancer screening) for women who may otherwise go without.

“We have made significant progress in the fight against cervical cancer over the past several decades, yet, alarmingly, rates are beginning to increase among certain populations,” Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative, told Healthline.

While there’s not a biologic or genetic reason for why Black women die at higher rates from cervical cancer, Blount said the disparities are due to long-standing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequalities that limit Black women’s access to screening and treatment for the disease.

“The care that Black women have access to is often lower-quality care than that for white women. And, structural biases in the way healthcare is delivered means Black women are frequently forced to make decisions to forgo or delay screenings due to concerns about cost, transportation, childcare, and the lack of adequate healthcare coverage,” she said.

Her hope is that the Cerving Confidence campaign helps change this by empowering Black women to take care of their cervical health and prioritize self-care.

Ciara has the same vision.

“Self-care is the best and there is nothing better than loving on yourself and being on top of your game and being able to be confident in every aspect of your life in every way… my greatest mission is to impact as many lives as possible, especially for the Black community, as we know this is the area that’s hit the hardest [by cervical cancer],” said Ciara.

To help Ciara spread awareness, use #Cervingconfidence on social media and visit their photo booth on the campaign’s website.