Operation Wipe Out: Eradicating cervical cancer

Published 9:30 am Saturday, March 18, 2023

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Last week, over 25 nurses from Chambers County School District were trained to become community educators for cervical cancer prevention and HPV vaccinations in partnership with Operation Wipe Out.

Executive Director of TogetHER for Health Dr. Heather White and Dr. Isabel Scarinci from UAB began Operation Wipe Out. They came together with a shared mission to eradicate cervical cancer in Alabama women by raising awareness about HPV vaccination. 

According to White, cervical cancer is the only cancer that is preventable. Because it is caused by the human papillary virus, getting vaccinated as a child can prevent women from getting cervical cancer later in life. The vaccination can also prevent other cancers that HPV causes such as head and neck cancers. 

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“We can literally wipe cervical cancer off the map,” White said.

At her nonprofit, Together for Health, White helps raise awareness and provide resources for HPV to individuals in low economic countries. However, looking homeward in Alabama, she realized that she needed to focus on her own community. 

Alabama has among the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country, with mortality rates ranking almost 50% higher than the rest of the U.S. However, it can be treated and prevented through HPV vaccination and regular cancer screenings. 

Unlike in foreign countries where her nonprofit works, White said these resources are free and easy to access through the state’s Department of Public Health early detection program.

“Alabama has the highest rates of insured children in the country,” White said. 

Operation Wipe Out was launched in Nov. 2021. White and Scarinci chose to focus on Chambers County after finding that the county has the highest cervical cancer rates in the state. The initiative works to bring local community engagement organizations together to spread awareness for the disease and solutions. 

One of the challenges in rural areas like Chambers County is access to specialist healthcare providers. 

“There are very few specialty providers in the state,” White said.

According to White, a specialist who can perform Colposcopy only comes to Chambers County twice a month. Operation Wipe Out works to solve this by ensuring patients have appointment slots and building the capacity for community nurses to provide services.

For those looking for more information on vaccination safety, White said Operation Wipe Out is happy to answer any questions at https://togetherforhealth.org/wipeout/.