American Cancer Society aims to eliminate cervical cancer globally

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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Cervical cancer is no longer the leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the U.S., but it's proving to still be a problem around the world.

New efforts by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) are trying to end cervical cancer deaths globally.

The ACS CAN is now asking Congress to dedicate a portion of the U.S. global health funding to help eliminate cervical cancer deaths. The money would go toward vaccinations and treatment services for women in lower- to middle-income countries.

It’s a fight Alicia Rollins takes personally.

"I thought I would never get cancer. That's something that happens to other people, but it doesn’t happen to me," she recalls.

At 25 years old, Rollins had just married her husband and was hoping to start a family, but a routine pap smear paused that plan.

"From that Pap smear, we found that I had some abnormal cells," she recalls. "It was really scary because you go from not thinking anything is wrong to now you have cervical cancer and you have to be treated for it."

Rollins went through treatment for about a year, making sure she was cancer free. After that, she was able to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby girl.

But Rollins considers herself lucky.

"Mine was stage 1 A1, so kind of like the really really early stages," she explains.

But not everyone has the resources to catch cancer early as Rollins did. The ACS CAN says chronic diseases, like cancer, still cause about 40 percent of premature deaths in low- and middle- income countries.

"Those women don’t have to suffer. Those women don't have to die. They don’t have to go through stage 2, stage 3, or stage 4 cervical cancer for something that's preventable," Rollins explains.

Researchers say almost all cases of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. That’s why the latest global effort to fight cervical cancer is to bring the HPV vaccine to these countries. For less than five dollars a dose, vaccination is one of the most cost-effective cancer prevention methods.

"If we can get more of the vaccines out and really increase the knowledge about the vaccine, we can really stop cervical cancer from being so rampant," Rollins says.

Rollins says she even plans of sharing that prevention method with her daughter.

"I will absolutely be giving it to her and making sure she has the vaccine when she gets of that age."