BOSTON (CBS) – January is cervical cancer awareness month and Kate Weissman of Charlestown is hoping her story will inspire women to get potentially life-saving screening tests.
Four years ago, she heard the words that everyone dreads – “You have cancer.”
“It was devastating,” she recalls thinking of that moment alone in her apartment. “I just said to myself, I’m 30 and I’m going to die.”
Weissman endured months of grueling treatment. Doctors initially thought they got it all, but the cancer turned up in her lymph nodes. So she had to go back for more treatment, a full year of chemotherapy and radiation.
“It ravages your body,” she said.
Weissman is now cancer free, but she wants women to know, it should never get that far because with proper screening tests, precancerous cells can be treated before they develop into cancer.
“When you are a cancer survivor you worry about it coming back, every single day,” she said.
For women without health insurance, testing can be out of reach. But the American Cancer Society is trying to eliminate that barrier, according to Lynn Basilio who works for the organization.
“The American Cancer Society doesn’t want cost to get in the way of getting screened,” she said.
The ACS has a hotline (1-800-227-2345) that provides help to anyone looking for help finding and paying for a screening test.
According to Basilio, the best way to prevent the disease is to start with children by having them vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus. HPV causes most cervical cancers and several other cancers that affect both girls and boys.
But according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in 2017 only 66% of teenagers completed the series of shots needed for full protection from the virus. Depending on the age, some kids need two shots, others will require three.
Weissman says she knows some people are hesitant about vaccines but she’s urging parents to do their research.
“We have to protect our future generation from having to deal with this,” she said.