Erin Andrews is a sportscaster and television personality. She hosts “Dancing with the Stars” and is a sideline reporter for Fox NFL.
I finished college years ago and have my absolute dream job as an NFL sideline reporter, but I have never stopped studying and learning — analyzing statistics about players, game plays, injury reports and coaching decisions.
But there is one stat I never imagined I’d have to learn: Every two hours, one woman dies of cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
On a Saturday a little over two years ago, I was preparing for football Sunday when I got a call from my obstetrician-gynecologist. She told me I had tested positive for cervical cancer. The shock of hearing the word “cancer” can never be fully described in words. Getting over that shock took a lot of help from my family and friends. But then I did what I do best — study.
I studied to learn everything I could about cervical cancer. I got second opinions about my treatment and learned that I’m one of the fortunate ones. My cancer was thankfully caught early.
Some of the other stats I learned as I studied and heard from experts and friends after I shared my story — cervical cancer can not only be treated, but it is among the most preventable. The incidence rate of cervical cancer decreased by more than half between 1975 and 2013, in large part thanks to the Pap test, according to the American Cancer Society.
More than half of new cervical cancer cases occur in women who have never been tested or who haven’t been tested in the last five years, according to the CDC. After I shared my story, I had friends telling me they hadn’t been to their obstetrician-gynecologist in years. Even if you feel healthy and perfectly fine, it’s important to schedule this act of preventative care into your annual schedule.
In my case, going to the doctor saved my life.
Even though Cervical Health Awareness Month is ending, it’s always a good time to set up an appointment with your obstetrician-gynecologist and ask about a Pap test and HPV test together. Or you can set a calendar reminder to help you remember when you’re due to see the doctor again and encourage the women in your life to do so as well.
If you get a call from your obstetrician-gynecologist after your appointment that your cervical cancer testing results were abnormal, don’t panic. If you do go on to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and get multiple opinions on the path forward.
Build a supportive network of family and friends around you to help you through it. My husband came with me to all my appointments and helped me to keep track of all the information. He was my biggest cheerleader and supporter.
Now that I’m a cervical cancer survivor, I want to cheer on and support other women who are fighting this disease.
It may be easy to read this and think that you will never find yourself in this position. But living a healthy lifestyle, having a fulfilling career, and feeling great doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. I’m proof that none of that will protect you.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from cervical cancer is to go get tested.