Resilient Survivor Shawn Smith Launches Endometrial Cancer Awareness During Harlem Week

August 28, 2023

Shawn Smith, born and raised in Harlem, NY, experienced irregular periods throughout her life, so she didn’t immediately recognize the abnormal spotting she was seeing as a sign of something bigger.

Once she started having repeated painful, labor-like cramps, she knew it was time to talk to her gynecologist. She was initially misdiagnosed as having adenomyosis around the age of 42, a chronic condition in which the uterine lining grows into the muscle walls of a woman’s uterus. However, her primary care doctor later recognized that Shawn’s symptoms may be a sign of something more and referred her to a gynecologic oncologist. In March 2017 at the age of 54, Shawn was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Today, Shawn is in remission runs her own tax company, and spends her time outside of work advocating with the Endometrial Cancer Action Network for African-Americans (ECANA), encouraging women to pay close attention to their bodies and take control of their health. Shawn is also lending her voice to the Spot Her® campaign, which aims to help end the silence around endometrial cancer. She is a testament to perseverance, positivity, and the power of listening to your body.

Shawn was diagnosed with endometrial cancer after experiencing abnormal bleeding and painful cramps. Shawn’s intense pain was initially dismissed until her primary care doctor recognized that these symptoms were not normal for someone her age and referred her to meet with a gynecologic oncologist.

Harlem World Magazine asked Shawn Smith about her story:

HWM: What advice would you give our readers who have early warning signs like abnormal bleeding and painful cramps?

SS: If you are experiencing any symptoms of concern, talk to your doctor. Knowing the signs of endometrial cancer can help with diagnosing the disease at an early stage when it may be more treatable.

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Common signs of endometrial cancer that can be easily overlooked or mistaken for other conditions are abnormal bleeding, spotting, or brownish discharge after menopause, as well as irregular or heavy bleeding before menopause and pelvic pain or pressure. From my own experience as an endometrial cancer survivor, I experienced abnormal bleeding and intense, painful cramps, which were not normal for me and made me realize I needed to see my doctor.   

HWM: You’re a spokesperson for the Endometrial Cancer Action Network for African-Americans (ECANA). Where can readers find more information about ECANA?

SS: You can learn more about ECANA at

HWM: What was the event you are involved in as part of Harlem Week?

SS: To help educate and raise awareness about endometrial cancer, “The Spot,” a mobile pop-up from the Spot Her® campaign kicked off a tour during Harlem Week on Saturday, August 20, 2023.

Spot Her is an initiative that aims to end the silence around endometrial cancer by empowering people to spot the potential signs of endometrial cancer in its early stages and take action. Together through this initiative, SHARE Cancer Support (SHARE), Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), Black Health Matters, ECANA, The Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC), and Eisai Inc. help educate the public about the signs and symptoms of the disease and encourage them to listen, advocate and put their health and the health of others first. 

HWM: Can you tell us more about “The Spot” mobile pop-up?

SS: The traveling exhibit will educate attendees about the symptoms and risk factors of endometrial cancer, connect them with advocacy resources and support services, and empower people to speak up about gynecologic health.

Attendees of “The Spot” can pick up their own Spot Her fanny pack, the campaign’s symbol for endometrial cancer awareness, and take pictures in the Spot Her photo booth that can be used on social media using the hashtag #SpotHerForEC. For each use of #SpotHerForEC, Eisai will donate one dollar (up to $20,000) between SHARE, FORCE, and ECANA, organizations that provide support for people living with endometrial cancer. 

HWM: When and where can individuals receive a Spot Her fanny pack?

SS: “The Spot” was part of Harlem Week on Sunday, August 20th, 2023, that took place on West 135th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd and Malcolm X Blvd in Harlem. There, attendees picked up their own Spot Her fanny pack, the campaign’s symbol for endometrial cancer awareness. When worn across the hips, a fanny pack helps to highlight the area in question – the uterus and the location of the “below the belt” symptoms people with endometrial cancer experience.

HWM: Why do you think there will be 4,620 new cases of uterine cancer in 2023? And why is this cancer with deaths on the rise, particularly for communities of color?

SS: I’m not a healthcare professional, so can’t provide medical insight on this topic – but what I do know is that women with endometrial cancer have reported that their symptoms were often stigmatized and dismissed. Only by speaking out about the symptoms of endometrial cancer, which we aim to do through Spot Her, can we help empower others to spot potential signs at an early stage and advocate for their health.

I also know that identifying symptoms and seeking help is especially important for the Black community, where health disparities are evident. Black women are nearly two times more likely to die of endometrial cancer compared to white women and are more often diagnosed at a later stage and with more aggressive forms of uterine cancer compared to other ethnicities.      

HWM: What can our readers do to help stay educated about uterine cancer and spotting the crucial signs of it?

SS: For more information and resources, go to  

HWM: We wish you the best of health. How are you feeling these days?

SS: I’m feeling happy and hopeful! I am feeling blessed and fortunate. Inspired! As someone who has experienced and survived endometrial cancer, I know first-hand the toll it can have on a person, as well as their loved ones. That is why I made it my personal mission to become an advocate for important women’s health issues, such as endometrial cancer. By sharing my story, I hope to help raise awareness of this disease and support others who may be going through this journey, so they know they are not alone.  

Harlem World Magazine: Who has been an inspiration for you?

Shawn Smith: My inspiration has been God. My Dad and my Mom when they were here. My Sister and my Brother. Watching them overcome the odds in life inspires me to move forward.

HWM: What is your favorite place in Harlem?

SS: Growing up in Harlem, there isn’t a place in Harlem that doesn’t bring back fond memories but if I had to pick one, I would say 125th Street. Some of the best moments I’ve had at the Harlem State Office Building during Harlem Week. The vendors, the music, the food. Good memories.

Photo credit: 1-3) Spot Her campaign/Eisai Inc.

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