Gretchen Anthony hadn’t been to an OB-GYN since her six-year-old child was born. “I didn’t have any medical issues, so I didn’t feel pressure to go,” she says. “I was busy. Life just got in the way.”

When she finally went for a physical, prompted by a concerned sister, she discovered she had high grade HPV—human papillomavirus—which had caused cancer cells to grow on her cervix. The surgeon tasked with giving her a hysterectomy said that it was the worst case of cervical cancer he had ever seen. And while his team was able to arrest the cancer before it spread, the operation permanently changed the hormonal balance of her body. She sweats profusely all the time and hasn’t been able to enjoy sex since.

Anthony realizes she should have been more judicious about keeping up with her annual health check-ups, but cervical cancer is asymptomatic and many women don’t catch it early enough. In fact, there are many dangerous conditions that women don’t realize they are living with: endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids—the list goes on. Without treatment, these illnesses can destroy a woman’s fertility or be fatal.

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