Sharon Green, Dr. Marie Savard, Susan Scanlan, Sarah Bristol-Gould, and Michelle Desjardins at the luncheon

Sharon Green, Dr. Marie Savard, Susan Scanlan, Sarah Bristol-Gould, and Michelle Desjardins at the luncheon

Yesterday, the Institute for Women’s Health Research co-hosted a luncheon with the Chicago Foundation for Women and the National Council of Women’s Organizations featuring the Pearl of Wisdom™ campaign to promote awareness and prevention of cervical cancer.   Speakers included Dr. Marie Savard, ABC News Medical Contributor; Susan Scanlan, Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations; Michelle Whitlock, Cervical Cancer Survivor and Women’s Health Advocate; and Lanise Sanders, Certified School Nurse in the Chicago Public School system.  The luncheon was extremely well received with many important Chicago organizations in attendance, including Sen. Jacqueline Collins, Rep. Constance Howard, Rep. Mary Flowers, and a representative from Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson.  One idea that was stressed by speaker Dr. Savard is that cervical cancer is treatable when detected early with the tools that we have including the Pap test, HPV test, and HPV vaccine.

The vaccine, Gardasil®, has been the subject of controversy since its release in 2006.  Part of the issue is the fact that the vaccine is recommended for girls starting as early as age 9.  Because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, many parents (who must give consent for the vaccine) are uncomfortable with the suggestion that their young daughters might engage in sexual activity.  While it is unlikely that a 9 year old will be exposed to the virus, it is important that the vaccine is

Dr. Marie Savard, ABC News Medical Contributor

Dr. Marie Savard, ABC News Medical Contributor

administered before sexual activity commences.  The vaccine is meant to protect women who may be exposed to the virus in the future, and realistically, that’s pretty much all of us.

Cervical Cancer Survivor Michelle Whitlock mentioned that at the time of her diagnosis she was not afraid to admit to and talk to friends and peers about her cervical cancer, but she felt ashamed to mention the HPV infection.  Sexually transmitted infections have a stigma; women often feel ashamed and afraid they will be labeled as promiscuous.  The fact is it takes only one sexual encounter to become infected with an HPV virus.  In addition, HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, not just by fluid exchange.  This means that condoms cannot offer complete protection.

So what can we do?  We can talk about it.  We can attempt to remove the stigma and make sure we encourage the women in our lives to get routine Pap tests and HPV tests as necessary.  Early detection is key.

For more information on the Pearl of Wisdom™ campaign, visit their webpage at:

For more information on HPV and the Gardasil® vaccine visit:

To learn about Cervical Cancer visit:



You know, I'm usually such a pro-science kind of girl, but the whole thing with Gardasil really upsets me. A couple of years ago, my mom asked if she should get my younger sister vaccinated. Knowing what I do about new drugs on the market, my advice was, "absolutely not." I advised my mother to wait a few years and let any new-found side effects or unforseen consequences shake out of the larger, general population before risking my sister. I stand by that opinion. I'm particularly upset that states are making this vaccine a requirement, despite its newness. Especially worrisome is the fact that many politicians who are voting to make the vaccine required are receiving campaign donations from Merck (the company that makes Gardasil). Merck is the ONLY company who has a patent to make the drug, which means that not only will they make a fortune if every girl is required to get it, but that no other company is allowed to work on generics or do testing on any long-term consequences. The lobbying by Merck combined with the political push to make the vaccine required just seems highly sketchy to me. Believe me, I'm HEAVILY pro-vaccine for vaccines that have been around for several decades with no evident harmful effects, but to make a new drug MANDATORY to inject into children when it's only been for a few years? No thanks, I wouldn't for my [non-existent] daughter. I just had a lively debate with a colleague who vehemently disagrees, so it seems pretty controversial, even now.

I understand Candace's concerns. It's unfortunate that so much of the drug R and D has to be conducted by profit making companies who have the funds to do it. Evidently there is a second vaccine almost ready to be released so it will be interesting to watch how that may change the dynamics a bit.

Very interesting article regarding the gardasil debate:

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