Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. Data from 2012 indicates there are approximately 528,000 new cases of cervical cancer every year, and for every two new cases of cervical cancer, at least one woman succumbs to the disease – an estimated 266,000 women die of cervical cancer annually. During Cervical Cancer Awareness month, here are some important things to know about cervical cancer and how the world is responding.
Low and Middle Income Countries Bear the Burden of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer disproportionately affects women in low and middle income countries (LMICs). More than 80 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in low-resource settings. The burden is particularly stark in LMICs where cervical cancer affects women during the prime of their lives. Women are at the center of society as primary caregivers for children, engaged community leaders, and contributors to economic growth and prosperity. When the burden of cervical cancer falls most heavily on marginalized women, the ability for communities and economies to grow is limited.
Cervical Cancer is Preventable and Treatable
The good news is cervical cancer is preventable and treatable with cost-effective, simple solutions. Most cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexual transmitted disease. Vaccinating girls against HPV before sexual debut significantly reduces her chance of developing cervical cancer as an adult.
Using just a few drops of household vinegar, cervical cancer can be detected in pre-cancerous stages. Through an approach called “see-and-treat,” applying vinegar to a woman’s cervix illuminates pre-cancerous lesions which can be removed with a same day procedure. “See-and-treat” costs as little as $25 per woman, but can save her life.
Further, new screening and treatment technologies are being tested that show promise for making the detection and prevention of cervical cancer with even more cost-effective and adaptable in low-resource settings.
The World Has Started to Pay Attention
Mrs. Laura Bush has said, “The success of PEPFAR encouraged us to take on our next challenge: women’s cancers.” The success of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has resulted in millions of lives saved from HIV/AIDS. But, women living with HIV/AIDS remain four to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer.
To reverse this reality, President and Mrs. Bush built on the success of PEPFAR and in 2011, launched Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an affiliate of the George W. Bush Institute, as a public-private partnership to fight women’s cancers. Through the work and advocacy Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and their partner organizations, global attention is beginning to more acutely focus on the burden of cervical cancer, especially in LMICs.
On World Cancer Day 2016, observed each year on February 4, then-United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, addressed the world with a call to “eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue.” Acting on this directive, seven UN agencies formed a Joint Global Programme on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control; WHO, UNAIDS and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS released a joint report which highlighted the scientific link between HPV, HIV and cervical cancer; and UNAIDS recognized the important link between HIV and cervical cancer in its ten Fast Track Commitments to End AIDS by 2030.
These successes represent just a few of the actions taken to increase international concentration on reducing cervical cancer during the past year.
Smart Policy Will Strengthen Response and Has Wide-Reaching Benefits
A recent essay written by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s CEO, Celina Schocken, outlines key policy recommendations for the incoming Trump administration and the new Congress to build on the United States’ leadership in global health. Schocken overviews the leading achievements attributed to the United States’ investments in global health, the benefits these contributions have produced, and includes essential recommendations for continuing U.S. leadership in global health. Investing in global health not only yields results in countable lives saved, but in strengthened national security, more productive and inclusive societies, and buys goodwill for U.S. relations around the world.
At a national level, comprehensive policy for cancer control is an essential base on which cervical cancer programs are built. As a first step in country engagement, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon works to support countries to develop national cancer control and cervical cancer program plans. National plans to prevent and control cancer provide strategic direction for all stakeholders working to fight cancer; helps maintain accountability by setting targeted objectives; streamlines efforts to deliver higher-quality care; and protects resources allocated to cancer control activities.
Through the efforts of organizations like Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, with government leadership, and in collaboration with multilateral action and the essential support of partner organizations and civil-society, we can envision a future where all women, regardless of where they live, can thrive, without the risk of cervical cancer.
Crystal Cazier is an Associate for Global Health and the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, she serves as the primary liaison for policy and programming between the Bush Institute and its independent affiliate, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a global partnership fighting women’s cancers. Crystal also supports the work of the Bush Institute’s First Ladies Initiative.
Before joining the Bush Institute, Crystal worked as a Clinical Research Associate at the Carle Cancer Center in Urbana, Illinois where she managed budgetary and contractual negotiations for both pharmaceutical and government-sponsored clinical trials.
Crystal received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center.Full Bio
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