By peoplestaff225
June 10, 2008 04:41 PM

Marissa Jaret Winokur‘s journey to motherhood is not typical and she wants to make sure that yours doesn’t go the same way. In 2000, at the age of 27, just as her Broadway career was starting to explode, Marissa’s gynecologist called with bad news- her pap smear came back abnormal. Follow-up tests confirmed that she had cervical cancer that was advanced enough to require a radical hysterectomy. Though fertility was the last thing on her mind at the time, fortunately, her ovaries were saved.

She moved past the surgery and went on to win a Tony for her role as Tracy Turnblad on Broadway. Until last year, Marissa had given little thought to the long-term impact of the cancer and what had caused it- it had robbed her of the ability to become pregnant. After an arduous process of egg retrieval and fertilization and finding a surrogate to carry their baby, Marissa and her husband, TV writer Judah Miller, now await the birth of their son Zev around July 22nd.

Click Continue Reading to find out what the HPV test is and why Marissa wants you to get it.

At a baby shower-themed press conference hosted at the gorgeous penthouse at the Hudson Hotelyesterday by cancer diagnostics company QIAGEN, Marissa shared herroller coaster of a tale. Guests dined on salads, finger sandwiches,quiche Lorraine, yogurt parfaits, pastel cupcakes, baby blue and yellowjelly beans. Though she received a few gifts (like a Pottery Barnbassinet from QIAGEN and goodies from New York City babyboutique, Yoya Mart), Marissa had requested that, in lieu of gifts, herguests share her story. She believes can prevent other womenfrom going through what she went through by getting a test that is notyet regularly offered at a woman’s annual checkup (with the exceptionof patients of the Kaiser Permanente Health System in California whereit is mandated). Marissa is confident that had she been given the digene HPV test(made by QIAGEN), her cervical cancer would have been detected in its earliest stages. She said that if the diagene test was as standard as a Paptest, she wouldn’t need to talk about it (as much).

Though it is the second most common type of cancer that strikeswomen (breast cancer is #1), most women know little about cervicalcancer. The controversial Gardasil "one less" vaccine for girls 9-26 that gives protection against certain strains of the human papillomavirus (aka HPV), a common sexually transmittedinfection, that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Because there is a lot of stigma over sexually transmitted infections, many assume that only sexually promiscuous women can get HPV and therefore cervical cancer yet 80% of women will be exposed to at least oneof the over 100 strains of HPV by the time they are 50.

In most cases, the immune system fights off or suppressesthe virus before it can cause cancer without the woman even knowing.But for the minority whose bodies do not fight off HPV, QIAGEN says thedigene HPV test can detect the high risk strainsbefore cancerous cells are formed. The virus is then monitored over timeto see if they grow. If they do, the cancerous cells can be removed viaminimal surgery or freezing and therefore keeping a woman’s fertilityin tact. It is suggested that, in addition to the annual Pap test, the digene HPV test be given to every woman over the age of 30 every3-4 years.

For more info about the test, visit In order to raise awareness of the existence of the vaccine, not only has the company hired Marissa as a spokesperson, they are donating $1 for every woman who pledges to spread the word and/or gets the test.

Does Marissa’s endorsement of the digene HPV test (not the Gardasil vaccine) inspire you to ask your gynecologist to get it for yourself? Please note that Marissa feels every woman over 30 should be given the digene HPV test every 3-4 years- she is in no way promoting Gardasil. Have you or anyone in your life been affected by HPV and/or cervical cancer?