Health

Several community health centers and the University of Louisville are holding an event on cervical cancer and HPV on Sunday to help spread prevention information.

The event, June 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Louisville Central Community Center, will feature food, music and a panel on cervical cancer screenings and the human papillomavirus, which can lead to several cancers if not caught early enough.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is sexually transmitted and among one of the most common in the United States. Between 2013 and 2014, 42.5 percent of people between ages 18 and 59 had genital HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Karen Kayser, a professor at the University of Louisville, said Kentucky has the highest rate of HPV-related cancers in the nation.

“So it’s not only cervical cancer, but it could be places like the uterus and also, we have to remember that men can get these HPV-related cancers to in terms of penile cancer, and both men and women can get it through oral cancers,” Kayser said.

Kayser said death rates from HPV-related cancers are also higher in minorities like African-American women. She said that’s due in part because there’s not enough educational outreach to communities of color.

“In terms of the death rate being higher, often that’s because of when it is detected and diagnosed: It’s late stage,” Kayser said. “I mean, the rate of incidents could be the same as white women, but if dying more dying from it, then it tells us that, yes, they’re getting screen, probably, but it’s too late.”

She said that’s due in part because there’s not enough educational outreach to communities of color. The event on Sunday is the culmination of meetings between U of L staff and residents and community leaders in neighborhoods in the western part of Louisville.

“They were saying that they knew very little about how often you should be screened [for cervical cancer], and little about the vaccination and who should get the vaccination and what ages,” Kayser said. “So they were the ones that then said, ‘you know, we don’t want to just talk about the problem, we want to do something.”

Staff from the Park DuValle Community Health Center will be at the event to help people set up appointments for cervical screenings.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and women starting around age 11 up until age 26. For boys, it’s recommended starting at age 13 until age 21. About 90 percent of HPV cases don’t present symptoms and go away on its own. However, other strains of HPV can cause cancer and genital warts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Although the event is free and open to anyone, organizers ask people who plan to register by calling 502-276-5747 or signing up online. The event will be 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Louisville Central Community Center, 1300 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.