A Conversation with Dr. Wanda K. Jones
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Dr. Jones is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director, Office on Women's Health, HHS. She spoke with the NCI Cancer Bulletin about National Women's Health Week, which takes place May 8-14, 2005.
What is National Women's Health Week?
National Women's Health Week is a national effort by an alliance of organizations to raise awareness about manageable steps women can take to improve their health. The focus is on the importance of incorporating simple preventive and positive health behaviors into everyday life. It encourages awareness about key health issues among all women, including those with disabilities and from minority communities.
During National Women's Health Week, almost 2,000 events and health screenings will take place around the country. It will be recognized by mayors and governors in towns and municipalities across 37 states.
How does the Office on Women's Health educate women about their cancer health?
The HHS Office on Women's Health helps women understand the age-appropriate preventive screenings for many diseases and conditions, including cancer, as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Mammography and Pap smears are key screening tests for early detection of breast and cervical cancers. In fact, the Pap smear can help prevent cervical cancer by indicating precancerous lesions that are easily treated to keep them from progressing to cancer. Colorectal cancer screening also is important; it's the third leading cause of cancer death in women. And we remind women to check their skin monthly, because skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and it's easily treatable.
We deliver these messages primarily through our National Women's Health Information Center - http://www.4woman.gov, 1-800-994-9662, TDD 1-888-220-5446 - which can help women connect to the many HHS resources. We also have a network of HHS Regional Office staff; model programs that focus on women's health, clinical care, and preventive services at academic health centers; and a variety of community sites in rural and frontier areas.
Has there been any change in women's attitudes about cancer in the past decade?
Women seem much more likely to discuss cancer, to network with other women cancer survivors, and to let their political leadership know the importance of sustaining the war on cancer. Even so, too many women still think breast cancer is their major health threat, while ignoring the threat of lung and colorectal cancers, and even cervical and skin cancers. We need to do more to help women understand the larger picture of cancer risk and prevention.