We’ve been told over and over that it’s important for women to get Pap tests to prevent cervical cancer, but disturbingly fewer women aged 20-29 are having the tests regularly. That’s why the BC Cancer Agency’s LACE Campaign is gearing up for Pap Awareness Week, this October 24-30.
When the BC Cancer Agency saw the statistics about young women failing to get tested, they approached Hello Cool World to help design an awareness strategy that would use social media to make sure women of all ages were learning about the importance of Pap tests. The result was the LACE Campaign, which stands for Live Aware. Create Empowerment.
“The LACE Campaign promotes education, awareness, conversation and action, using traditional and social media to connect with women across the province. We aren't a fundraising campaign; we are about getting women to actually go get their Pap,” says Lizzy Karp, LACE Campaign Outreach Coordinator.
Through interviewing women of diverse ages and backgrounds, LACE found out that many women simply don’t remember to get their Pap tests. They decided to set up a tool on their website where women can sign up for emails reminding them to get screened.
“We’re seeing that this campaign can engage the 20-29 age group...The goal is to empower young women to act and give them the information in a way that doesn’t feel like being preached to,” says Lisa Despins, Promotion and Education Specialist with the BC Cancer Agency’s Cervical Cancer Screening Program. “It’s about taking charge of your health, taking charge of your bodies.”
So far the campaign has made great progress, distributing materials through local businesses and clinics across British Columbia. “Many women were moved by our PSA and contacted us throughout the summer, sharing their very personal stories and experiences of cervical cancer,” Karp says. LACE has also sparked spinoff groups like the White Orchid Society, a group of young South Asian women dedicated to raising Pap awareness in the South Asian community.
Organizers realized the campaign was appealing to women beyond their target demographic, and saw that as an opportunity.
“This is a grassroots movement,” Despins explains, “You want to build on what you have, getting more and more people involved. The real target group is all women across BC.”
Despins says the success of the initial launch meant it just made sense for LACE to take on organizing for Pap Awareness Week. It’s a national week, but this will be the first time the BC Cancer Agency will be taking part on such a large scale. During the week, participating clinics will have their doors open for drop-in Pap tests, no appointment needed and some will have gift bags for women who participate. Participating clinics will be listed on their website during the awareness week.
But there’s still work to do before October and the LACE campaign is looking for volunteers on campuses and in communities across the province to distribute materials and flyers and put up posters and to tell their stories about experiences with Pap tests and cervical cancer. They’re also looking to connect with clinics that provide Pap testing. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can visit their website.
“Cervical cancer is for the most part preventable and if caught early enough, quite treatable,” Despins notes. But even if you don’t have much time to volunteer, Karp reminds people they can still take action by talking about the importance of screening.
“Men and Women alike should take the time to remind their lovers, family members, co-workers, friends and neighbours to take the life-saving step and get screened.”