Turquoise Thursday raises awareness of cervical cancer in Native women

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

The American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF) launched the 7th annual Turquoise Thursday campaign Jan. 18 with a virtual event to spread awareness about the importance of cervical cancer screening in Native American communities.

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. According to AICAF, Native women have the highest rates of HPV-associated cancers and are over 1.5 times as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to white women. Early detection and screening have greatly reduced the impact of cervical cancer among women, which continues to disproportionately affect Native communities.

“Getting that word out that cancer screenings and early detection can save lives is really important. Cervical cancer can be prevented and is curable if it is found early. We understand that there are fears and lack of understanding or knowing the process which is why we developed these resources in an indigenous lens,” said Communication and Project Manager Shoshanna Johnson.

Turquoise Thursday organizers encouraged women to get a Pap smear and share photos of themselves wearing turquoise jewelry or clothing on social media using the hashtag #TurquoiseThursday to help raise awareness.

“The main goal is to increase awareness about the importance of cervical cancer screenings and encourage women to stay up to date on their cancer screenings,” AICAF Cancer Program Specialist Jenna Calder (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) told Native News Online. “It’s all about normalizing the conversation on cervical health and cancer.”

Throughout January, AICAF has partnered with 10 Clinic Champions and cervical cancer survivor, Mary Ann Cook (Red Lake Ojibwe). Throughout the month on AICAF’s social media, Cook will be sharing her story of being diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 26.

The AICAF is partnering with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Center for Disease Control and Prevention to host two webinars that will share various resources and tools to help people learn more about public policy, data and cervical health.

The AICAF also provides culturally tailored infographics, toolkits, and webinars for Native communities to learn more about cervical cancer and cancer prevention.

“It is really important we make sure our mission stays at the forefront by remembering that we are all about healing with culture and reclaiming indigenous health,” Communication and Project Manager, Shoshanna Johnson (Absentee Shawnee/Sac and Fox) said. “Making sure our resources and outreach are always culturally tailored is something that is very important to us.”

There will be another webinar Jan. 25 with Navajo epidemiologist Melissa A. Jim. Register at americanindiancancer.org/aicaf-project/turquoise/ .

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