You Can Now Get Free Cervical Cancer Exams In …”The Box”

Scary fact: More women are dying from cervical cancer than initially predicted. But don’t worry though, health care for women is a priority of this administration, right? Oh …. Wait. There’s that war on women’s health care happening so we’re really looking for a revolution. Because the stats are terrifying. 

The death rate calculations when it comes to cervical cancer have risen 77 percent for black women and 47 percent for white women. Last year, 12,820 new cervical cancer cases were predicted with approximately 4,210 women expected to die as a result. Remember: Cervical cancer can be prevented with early screening and intervention. We can’t have screening and intervention when accessible health care for women is dwindling.

Republicans seem to have made it their mission to decrease funding for vital healthcare needs for women, especially low income women. With their dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood, they’re grasping at straws in their attempts to defund the organization. Aside from the fact that federal law prohibits government money being used to fund abortions in the first place, only a small percent of what PP raises on its own goes towards the procedure anyway. The overwhelming majority of the money they spend goes towards preventative care, Pap smears, screenings, and various other key women’s healthcare services. Just last year, new laws in some states were put into place leaving many women without proper care. One startling example happened in Iowa where 15,000 women had their health services taken away when their Republican governor signed the bill to stop Medicaid money from funding Planned Parenthood. This meant that 15,000 women were not being screened for cervical cancer. Iowa is just one wretched example of how women are being discriminated against.

The increase of women dying should be a bipartisan concern, but with all the issues America is facing as a result of Trump being in office, this doesn’t seem to be a priority for many. It is for Dr. Maggie Carpenter, a physician with over 20 years experience and founder of GoDocGo based in New York. Dr. Carpenter is a fierce advocate for women and ensuring health care is received by all, especially those who do not have easy or affordable access to it. GoDocGo sends doctors to all parts of the world to give women free medical care, thanks to donations and community support. She, along with artist Ryan Cronin, created something revolutionary to help women take health care into their own hands, unobstructed by the agenda of this administration who are leaving far too many without proper care. Dr. Carpenter and Cronin created “The Box,” a private space in a public area that supplies women with all they need to self-swab so they can be tested for cervical cancer for free.

This incredible art meets medicine creation is not only empowering for women, but has the ability to save lives. Dr. Carpenter said, “Watching women come in hesitantly about doing something so private, in a public space, and yet leaving feeling empowered was amazing and made all of the work worth while.”

Cronin added, “We found already that more than one in 10 tested positive and require further evaluation. This really blew our minds. I knew when I created the piece that it was going to be functional public art, but hearing the results, really drove the concept home. For me, The Box is not about the physical piece itself, the art is in the women interacting with the piece and leaving feeling changed in some way.”

Typically, women are tested for cervical cancer and human papilloma virus (HPV), which can lead to cancer, with a Pap smear. Screening should begin at age 21 and continue through most of a woman’s life at routine gynecological visits depending on their health history. Self-swabbing has been shown to be effective, which is why Dr. Carpenter conceived this idea and made it easy for women to just walk into a box for testing. No appointment needed. This is the kind of self-care that is so important.

After self-swabbing, the slides are evaluated by a lab and women are contacted by phone with the results. If further care is warranted, it is offered at a reduced cost or covered by GoDoGo if the care is unaffordable. No woman who enters The Box goes without the care she needs. That’s more than we can say about some doctor’s offices. Sometimes the red tape and seemingly endless insurance issues can lead women to forgo further treatment, if they go for any in the first place. That’s what makes The Box so incredible. 

“The Box” has had two installations so far — one in Kingston, NY, and one in Brooklyn, NY. The team is in the planning stages of six more installations between April and November with the hopes of expanding the project into 2019.

It is crucial that initiatives like this one exist, and this is just one example in one area of our country. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get these boxes everywhere? Iowa needs them — and so many more places, too. Women’s lives depend on it.

For more information about The Box and its future locations, please contact Dr. Maggie Carpenter 646-894-3089, magscarpenter@gmail.com or Melanie Cronin 845-430-8470, melanie@cronartusa.com.