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Series on Health, Equity, and Women’s Cancers Published in The Lancet Draws Global Attention to Cervical and Breast Cancer

Article by Crystal Cazier November 4, 2016 //   4 minute read

Cervical and breast cancers are the common-most cancers among women living in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) but remain severely under-resourced, under-researched and their effects under-publicized.  A series of papers published this week in The Lancet, and released at the UICC World Cancer Congress in Paris, France, draws attention to the global burden of breast and cervical cancer, giving stark focus to the burden of these diseases in LMICs. 

The authors estimate that if efforts are not amplified, the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide could nearly double per year to 3.2 million new cases per year in 2030. That’s compared with 1.7 million new cases in 2012, and the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer per year could increase by 32 percent, from 530,000 new cases per year in 2012, to 700,000 per year in 2030 if incidence rates do not change.

While evidence shows that prevention, screening and treatment services, coupled with awareness-raising, advocacy and education have reduced incidence and mortality of breast and cervical cancer in high-income countries, more needs to be done in LMICs.  Although there are cost-effective prevention, screening and treatment options available, inequity in access to care is widespread. 

In addition to providing direct cancer care services to women, the authors call for targeted policy responses, both at a national and international level, to increase resources for and concentration on women’s cancers.  Efforts need to be cross-sectional not just health-sector focused, include investments in whole health systems, and consider issues of gender equity that prevent women from accessing care.  Viewing women’s health in the broader context of the Sustainable Development Goals also will be critical for gaining momentum on women’s cancers.

In low-resource settings, breast and cervical cancer disproportionately affect women in the prime of life, resulting in substantial economic and social effects.  A woman’s country, region of residence, income level, socioeconomic status, ethnocultural status, or migration status should no longer affect the likelihood of dying from these common cancers.

Health, Equity and Women's Cancers, The Lancet

The evidence and discussion in the paper series underpins the relevance of organizations like Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.  Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an independent affiliate of the George W. Bush Institute, partners with national governments, global NGOs, multilateral institutions, local civil-society, and key leaders to create locally owned, sustainable systems that allow women to access cancer care services.  Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon works with its partners across the full continuum of cancer care, from awareness-raising and prevention, through to palliative care.  Together with local stakeholders, Government officials, and cancer experts, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon supports countries to build robust responses to address cervical and breast cancer by coordinating action to provide direct services to women, but also to advance effective policy that ensures viable responses to cervical and breast cancer.