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Fighting Cervical Cancer Worldwide

Many of CDC’s global efforts focus on strengthening cervical cancer screening programs to have the biggest effect on reducing the global cancer burden. These programs are needed most in less developed regions, where almost nine out of 10 cervical cancer deaths occur.

Chart showing the rates of cervical cancer cases and deaths for Sub-Saharan Africa and North America.

About 528,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, mostly in less developed regions. In Eastern and Middle Africa, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in women.

Cervical cancer can be prevented with vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) and regular screening tests and follow-up. Cervical cancer is on the decline in the United States, but the burden in many countries remains high, mostly due to a lack of screening and treatment services.

For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, about 35 cervical cancer cases are diagnosed for every 100,000 women, compared with only about 7 new cases for every 100,000 women in North America. About 23 women per 100,000 die from cervical cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to about 3 per 100,000 in North America.

CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) works with agencies like the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to develop cancer registries, build capacity to screen more women for cervical cancer, improve cervical cancer screening programs, update and implement screening guidelines, develop a global cancer training course for public health professionals, and improve quality assurance, monitoring, and evaluation.

Some of these global activities are highlighted below.

  • Providing technical assistance for operating cancer registries and screening women for cervical cancer. (Bolivia, Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Helping to build capacity for cervical cancer screening through visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and for cervical cancer diagnosis through colposcopy. (Bolivia)
  • Providing support to cervical cancer screening programs through the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative. (Bolivia, Botswana, Tanzania, and Zambia)
  • Analyzing a national primary care physician survey developed with CDC’s assistance to assess screening and prevention practices and help build screening capacity. (Brazil)
  • Testing a tool to assess the cost of operating cancer registries. (Colombia, India, and Kenya)
  • Helping to evaluate knowledge, attitudes, and acceptability about cervical cancer screening, treatment, and palliative care. (Kenya)
  • Developing communication, education, and training efforts associated with cervical cancer prevention and control services. (Kenya)
  • Strengthening the national cervical cancer screening program and cancer registries by assessing quality and improving data use for monitoring and evaluation. (Thailand)
  • Conducting an HPV testing demonstration project and helping to train health care providers. (Thailand)
  • Helping to disseminate surveillance data related to Pap and VIA testing. (Thailand)
  • Working with IARC to provide technical assistance to establish and strengthen cancer registries. (Vietnam)

Featured Programs

Photo: In Vietnam, a former jail now houses a temporary oncology center for Hue Central Hospital.

Photo: In Vietnam, a former jail now houses a temporary oncology center for Hue Central Hospital.

  • Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon: This global initiative builds on health care programs in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce deaths from breast and cervical cancer. CDC helps monitor and evaluate this initiative, and works to promote sustainability of the activities in Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania. As part of this initiative, CDC recently received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop global standards and tools for monitoring and evaluating cervical cancer programs in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (GICR): CDC, IARC, the Union for International Cancer Control, and other organizations created GICR to provide training, support, and infrastructure to regional networks for cancer registries. This work will help countries produce reliable information on the burden of cancer so they can develop and implement effective cancer control policies.
  • Latin American and Caribbean Cervical Cancer Initiative: CDC is working with the Pan-American Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the Network for Latin American National Cancer Institutes (RINC), and the National Cancer Institute to increase access to high-quality cervical cancer screening and treatment in the region. Key strategies include working with countries to develop evidence-based cancer screening programs, and training health care providers to screen for cervical cancer using low-cost technologies. Activities focus on helping countries implement the new WHO cervical cancer screening guidelines and on developing monitoring and evaluation tools for program managers.
  • Pacific Islands Screening Project: CDC is exploring different ways to screen for cervical cancer in the United States Affiliated Pacific Islands, since many areas lack screening services and have limited resources to process Pap tests. Alternative methods may allow women to be screened as recommended.
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