Living in the poorest countries in the world can be a death sentence for many women who develop cervical cancer. Of the nearly 300,000 women who die from cervical cancer each year, 88 percent live in Africa and Asia. These women rarely have access to tests and treatments considered standard care in the United States and other industrialized nations. A new test developed by Netherlands-based QIAGEN offers new hope to women around the globe.
Cervical cancer defined
Cervical cancer ranks as the second most common cancer among women around the world. Cervical cancer is a cancer in the reproductive system of a woman. The uterus, which is also called the womb, is where a baby develops during pregnancy. The bottom opening to the uterus is called the cervix. The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina, which is also known as the birth canal. Cervical cancer develops when cells in the cervix grow out of control and become a tumor.
The primary cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papillomavirus, also known as HPV. This virus is an infection that can be transferred from one person to another during sexual contact. Because women can have HPV before developing cervical cancer, new tests make it possible to determine if a woman has HPV so it can be eliminated it before it causes cancer cells to grow.
Testing for HPV
QIAGEN developed the first HPV test that was approved by the FDA as a screening tool for cervical cancer. The test, known as the digene HPV Test, is available in the U.S. and other industrialized nations. These countries also have vaccines available to help prevent teenage girls from ever catching HPV. But tests and vaccines require sophisticated laboratory equipment and trained technicians. These things often are not available to women living in the poorest countries in the world, where treatment for cervical cancer is needed the most.
Relief for these underserved women may soon be available in the form of a simplified test developed by QIAGEN.