OAKLAND -- On Sept. 8, Lake Merritt will be the scene of the fourth annual Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer (PINCC) walk-a-thon.
Circling the lake once, and sometimes twice, individuals, pairs and spirited teams, some dressed in costume or funny hats, others with their dogs, will walk to raise money to combat cervical cancer in Africa. Seven years into this foundation's existence, co-founder and Executive Director Dr. Kay Taylor is hoping the event can raise $20,000.
"Every year we get more people and raise more money; we raised $15,000 last year," Taylor said.
Cervical cancer is the world's deadliest cancer, killing 800 women a day, mainly in developing countries. Unlike other forms of cancer, it's completely preventable if women can be screened and treated, a common procedure in the United States.
In 2003, a medical trip to Central America alerted Taylor to the problem that led her to found PINCC. In Honduras, she saw three cases of cervical cancer in one week, more than she'd seen in her entire career as a gynecologist/obstetrician with Kaiser Hospital. This really brought home the desperate need to screen women in developing countries for cervical cancer. Soon after her return, Taylor read of a new procedure that screened and treated women for cervical cancer in one visit. "For women in rural areas this could be a life saver," Taylor said.
Taylor did the research, took early retirement and altered the course of her
Beginning in Latin America in 2005, volunteer teams of eight to 10 would arrive at rural clinics or hospitals with their supplies in suitcases tied with pink kerchiefs. There they would train hospital or clinic personnel and help them establish self-sufficient clinic programs to screen and treat cervical cancer in a cost-effective way and bring free medical care to women, returning to each site every six months to continue staff training.
Now in its eighth year, PINCC continues to make six trips a year, two each to India, Latin America and Africa. It has completed 27 clinic or hospital sites and is working on 14 more this year. Along with gratifying numbers, PINCC has now stepped up its effectiveness.
"Now we're not just going to see women and treat them, we're going to train local staffs to do the procedure and give them the equipment as they become expert," Taylor said. "We've also rolled out a whole community education and awareness campaign to get women more aware of what's going on."
Requests continue to pour in from other locations, and the organization is hoping that its Sept. 8 walk-a-thon will bring in sufficient funds to allow the medical teams to spread into Kenya and Cameroon. The public can help by supporting the walk-a-thon and other fundraising events, volunteering to assist with packing for trips, entering data collected at each site, or even by becoming board members.
To effectively cause the incidence of cervical cancer in the developing world to plunge as it has in the United States, women need to be screened every five years.
"I think the most important thing is that we develop a sustainable program; that we leave behind a system that goes on working, taking care of people and expanding," Taylor said. "That, to me, is the most important part of our work."
Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer (PINCC) can be reached at P.O. Box 13081, Oakland or 510-452-2542. For more information, to donate or to register for the walk-a-thon visit www.pincc.org.