“When I was a little girl growing up, I didn’t think one day I’m going to be sharing my coochie story and talking about HPV and cervical cancer,” Tamika Felder says about being a 22-year cervical cancer survivor.  

Felder is one of the thousands of Black women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. Although the average age for a diagnosis is between 35 to 44, she was diagnosed at 25. The American Cancer Society estimates about 2,460 cases of invasive cervical cancer diagnoses will be made among Black women this year alone. Black women are 22% more likely to develop cervical cancer than white women.  

Unlike other cancers, where the cause is unknown, healthcare professionals know what causes cervical cancer, how to prevent it, and the risk factors. But Black women are 65% more likely to die than white women from this type of cancer due to stigma, lack of access to healthcare services, and biases.  

Since going into remission, Felder started Cervivor, a nonprofit cervical cancer awareness and support organization that works to educate women. She says she wishes she had the resources available today back when she was diagnosed with cancer.  

“I didn’t know anyone that had cervical cancer, and I was really surprised by my diagnosis … it literally changed the trajectory of my life, my career,” she says. “I’ve dedicated my life to supporting others who are diagnosed with cervical cancer and helping them to find their voice.”  

There are not enough Black women sharing their stories, and I get why because there’s so much stigma involved in it.

TAMIKA FELDER, 22-YEAR CERVICAL CANCER SURVIVOR

Cervical cancer is caused by persistent infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and is highly preventable through screening and vaccination, the American Cancer Society states in its 2022-2024 study. 

The same study says, over a five-year survival period, Black women have lower survival rates for every stage of diagnosis due to disparities in access to care and receipt of high-quality treatment. 

Felder says the rates of Black women who are being diagnosed and dying from cervical cancer is alarming — one of the main things they can do to change these numbers is to speak up. 

“There are not enough Black women sharing their stories, and I get why because there’s so much stigma involved in it,” she says. “When we talk about vaginal health … in a lot of cultures and communities, it’s taboo to talk about those things. But the problem when we don’t talk about them is that more people are dying.”  

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