Changemakers: I am scared of cervical cancer & this is what I am doing about it

28 Sep

As a young woman, I am scared of cervical cancer. But as an Indian woman, I am furious.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer among women worldwide. With around 25% of the world’s cervical cancer-related deaths being reported in India, the disease annually affects more than 1.2 lakh women in India – making it the most common cancer among Indian women of reproductive age. Lack of medical education about the accuracy of medical test. Failure of national guidelines and policies pertaining to gynecological diseases and sexual health.

Changemakers: I am scared of cervical cancer

I have been invested in the healthcare advocacy and women’s health for a long time, working on changing attitudes towards cervical cancer detection, prevention, and care. I found it incredibly tragic that a disease so evidently preventable consumes so many Indian women, simply because of the lack of societal willingness to invest in education and simple healthcare programs. Why? Stigma. Taboo. Fear.

Hence, I founded Pap-Up in 2017, a direct action and grassroots awareness campaign focused on changing attitudes regarding women’s health in India, by encouraging and facilitating early detection of cancer. Having interned at the Sitaram Bhartia Research Institute and volunteered with the Public Health Foundation of India, I was familiar with the statistics about cervical cancer; I was also painfully familiar with how many people lacked access to this kind of education and support. I formed partnerships with the Guild of Service, India and with Cancer Awareness, Prevention and Early Detection (CAPED) India; to raise money, I held a swim-a-thon at my school, and solicited private donations.


The day of the camp, we waited for an hour, nervously anticipating the crowds. But the response was overwhelming: I struggled to keep pace filling out intake forms, while my team of dedicated health professionals worked with consummate poise and dignity. Every women that day, felt heard, supported, and helped. Every woman got tested. And now every woman is a little more empowered than she was before.

Cervical cancer is treatable, curable, survivable. The only danger is to ignore it. And that’s what I wanted to address with Pap-Up, large-scale ignorance of urgent women’s health issues, which is now amounting to a public health crisis. And I will keep addressing these issues, beyond my university studies and hopefully for the rest of my life- I want to dedicate myself to Public Health and increasing access to the field. Now that the first camp is over, I am already thinking of bigger, better, more sustainable solutions to address the mindset that prevents women from leading the healthy and productive lives that they deserve




Armaana Chawla is student at the British School. She is a national level swimmer. She is very passionate about the life sciences and its impact on the community at large. She was able to pursue this passion by having the opportunity to intern at several health organisations including the Sita Ram Bhartia Hospital, where she was part of a prenatal study and the Public Health Foundation of India where she helped organise several campaigns including one in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

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