Yvette Wilson, Parkers/Moesha Actress Dies of Cervical Cancer

Yvette Wilson, an actress best known for her role as Andell Wilkerson on UPN’s Moesha and its spinoff, The Parkers, has died at the age of 48 of cervical cancer.

Wilson also played in a number of movies including House Party 2, House Party 3 and Friday.

Wilson was also plagued by kidney failure and was in need of a kidney transplant. Before her death, a friend, Jeffrey Pittle, created a medical fund, called Cancer Sucks, to help her raise money to pay for her medical treatment, saying:

We’re asking that you please donate to her medical fund – she’s brought so much laughter to so many people – it’s time we step up and support Yvette and let her feel some of that love she’s so used to giving, come back to her ten-fold!

The Cervix

The cervix is part of a woman’s reproductive system. It’s in the pelvis. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb).

The cervix is a passageway:

  • The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina. During a menstrual period, blood flows from the uterus through the cervix into the vagina. The vagina leads to the outside of the body.
  • The cervix makes mucus. During sex, mucus helps sperm move from the vagina through the cervix into the uterus.
  • During pregnancy, the cervix is tightly closed to help keep the baby inside the uterus. During childbirth, the cervix opens to allow the baby to pass through the vagina.

A Dozen Things to Know About Cervical Cancer

1.  It is estimated that 12,170 women will be diagnosed with and 4,220 women will die of cancer of the cervix uteri in 2012

2.  Studies have found that infection with the virus called HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives, but most infections clear up on their own. An HPV infection that doesn’t go away can cause cervical cancer in some women.

3.  A woman’s risk of cervical cancer can be reduced by getting regular cervical cancer screening tests. If abnormal cervical cell changes are found early, cancer can be prevented by removing or killing the changed cells before they become cancer cells.

4.  Another way a woman can reduce her risk of cervical cancer is by getting an HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active (between the ages of 9 and 26). Even women who get an HPV vaccine need regular cervical cancer screening tests.

5.  Early cervical cancers usually don’t cause symptoms.

6.  When the cancer grows larger, women may notice abnormal vaginal bleeding:

  • Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam
  • Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
  • Bleeding after going through menopause

7.  Women may also notice…

  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex

8.  As recently as the 1940s, cervical cancer was a major cause of death among women of childbearing age in the United States. However, with the introduction in the 1950s of the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear―a simple test in which a sample of cervical cells is examined under a microscope to detect cellular abnormalities―the incidence of invasive cervical cancer declined dramatically. Between 1955 and 1992, U.S. cervical cancer incidence and death rates declined by more than 60%.

9.  Because precancerous lesions found by Pap smears can be treated and cured before they develop into cancer, and because cervical cancer is often detected before it becomes advanced, the incidence and death rates for this disease are relatively low.

10  The FDA has approved two vaccines, Gardasil® and Cervarix®, which are highly effective in preventing persistent infections with HPV types 16 and 18, the two high-risk HPV types that cause the majority of cervical cancers. Gardasil also protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause about 90% of genital warts.

11.  Treatment of cervical cancer has improved considerably. The 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer is close to 75%. Most cervical cancer patients receive radiation plus concurrent chemotherapy as part of their treatment. Cisplatin is the most common chemotherapy agent used for cervical cancer.

12. People often learn about health issues, diseases and other medical conditions when a celebrity or other public figure is affected. Several years ago, a British reality TV personality named Jade Goody was diagnosed and eventually died from cervical cancer and the public showed great interest in her case.  Each time that Jade was in the news, it became a Teachable Moment that caused more and more women to get screened for cervical cancer.

For more information on how celebrity illnesses impact peoples’ internet searches and health literacy, see our story on The Goody-Gaga Effect.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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