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Globally, Cervical Cancer Still A Killer

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Cervical cancer once was a leading cause of death for women in the United States, but thanks to the widespread use of Pap tests beginning in the 1950s, it's a disease that has become relatively rare here. That's not the case in poorer and developing countries where Pap tests are simply unavailable, and even if they were accessible, there is a shortage of pathologists available to interpret test results.

In 2005, the latest figures available, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates about 11,150 U.S. women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 3,924 women died from the disease, about 2.5 percent of all cancer deaths among women.

In certain populations and geographic areas of the United States, however, cervical cancer death rates are still high, in large part due to limited access to health care and cervical cancer screening. Worldwide, especially in middle and low income countries, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, and the third most frequent cause of cancer death, accounting for nearly 300,000 deaths annually, the NCI says.

For example, in 2008, a study conducted by the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, compiled 15 years of research in what was the first major assessment of the effects of the human papillomavirus in the Caribbean and Latin America where as many as 33,000 deaths annually from cervical cancer are reported. According to its author, better screening and an affordable vaccine for girls could reduce those deaths, which could increase to 70,000 a year by 2030 without intervention.

Virtually all cervical cancer cases (99 percent) are linked to genital infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, infecting 20 percent to 30 percent of young women in the region, as well as 20 percent of young men.

Compared to the U.S. where cervical cancer death is less than 3 percent, in Haiti, as one example, 49 percent of all cancer deaths among women is from cervical cancer.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Good question Pat, thanks for asking. The studies I looked at were specifically focused on cervical cancer. While other cancers are certainly present, cervical cancer is devastating large populations of women globally--many in their childbearing years-- and is the leading cause of cancer death in several countries. Global health experts are deeply concerned about this trend, since cervical cancer can be cured if caught early. But without the proper screening tools available, most cases are discovered too late.

January 7, 2010 - 5:25am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Lynette Summerill)

We appreciate the follow up information, Lynette. Sometimes those of us in countries where prevention measures are readily available just don't realize how dire the situation is for our sisters in other parts of the world. Please keep us posted. Thanks, Pat

January 7, 2010 - 5:12pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Lynette - This is startling information. Did your research show whether the conditions leading to these high rates of cervical cancer are also leading to high rates of breast, lung and other cancers? Pat

January 5, 2010 - 5:38pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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