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Saving Lives Through Screening: Cervical Cancer

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The Problem

Worldwide, cervical cancer affects half a million women and kills a quarter million women each year. Over 85% of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur in developing countries. Virtually all cases are linked to persistent infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). The disproportionate burden of cervical cancer is highest in countries where effective screening, diagnosis, and treatment is limited or absent. In several Western countries, where screening programs that have been linked to effective treatment have long been established, cervical cancer rates have decreased by as much as 65%. Cost-effective screening that can detect cervical cancer and pre-cancerous cervical lesions is available for limited resource settings.

Where We Work

  • Bolivia

Key Partners

  • Pan American Health organization (PAHO)
  • World Health Organization
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer
  • The Union for International Cancer Control
  • American cancer Society
  • Other non-governmental organizations

The CDC Response

CDC is collaborating with the Pan-American Health Organization, to build capacity for cervical cancer screening in Latin America. In Bolivia, a country with a tremendous cervical cancer burden but with little infrastructure to address the problem, physicians and nurses have been trained to screen patients for cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions. One of the techniques, visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), is effective and affordable and requires minimal technology. As such, it offers great potential for increasing access to screening in low-income countries such as Bolivia. In addition, CDC is providing assistance to Bolivia as it embarks on starting a cancer registry in La Paz to characterize its cancer burden.

Status

Bolivian health promotoras receive training to increase awareness and screening for cervical cancer

Women from Bolivian communities learning about cervical cancer and visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) in order to become promotoras de salud (health promoters).

CDC hosted the head of Bolivia’s cytopathology laboratory at CDC headquarters to study programs for cancer registries and early detection of cancer, with lessons learned now being applied in Bolivia. In addition to activities in Bolivia, CDC is providing assistance to the World Health Organization (WHO) on a number of important cervical cancer-related projects, including developing guidance on clinical recommendations for cryotherapy, updating WHO cervical cancer screening guidelines, and providing guidance on how to monitor the impact of the HPV vaccine.

Vision for Growth

Newly-trained health practitioners in Bolivia will go on to train others throughout the country resulting in increased screening rates, increased awareness of cervical cancer among Bolivian women, and ultimately reducing the cervical cancer burden in Bolivia.

An indigenous woman is shown coming into the main entrance of the women’s hospital, where CDC is conducting a demonstration project to increase cervical cancer screening. The woman is carrying the baby on her back with a typical indigenous blanket, which is how indigenous women usually carry their young children in Bolivia. (Note: this photograph, which was taken by CDC Employee Analia Stormo, won third place in the International Program category at CDC’s 2012 Photo Contest.)

An indigenous woman is shown coming into the main entrance of the women’s hospital, where CDC is conducting a demonstration project to increase cervical cancer screening. The woman is carrying the baby on her back with a typical indigenous blanket, which is how indigenous women usually carry their young children in Bolivia. (Note: this photograph, which was taken by CDC Employee Analia Stormo, won third place in the International Program category at CDC’s 2012 Photo Contest.)

 
  • Page last reviewed: September 16, 2011
  • Page last updated: September 16, 2011
  • Content source: Global Health
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