Cervical Cancer & HPV

Photo by Sara Porter
UN Photo

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Approximately 500,000 new cases occur every year, of which about 250,000 will lead to death. ref 1 Women between the ages of 15 and 45 are the most affected by cervical cancer, and nearly 80% of all cases occur in low-income and developing countries. ref 2

Scientists have discovered that the main cause of cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). ref 3 Up to 80% of all women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives, and if the infection does not clear up naturally, it can progress into pre-cancerous lesions and cervical cancer.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect against HPV and cervical cancer. New vaccines are available that can prevent potentially cancerous HPV infection, and cervical cancer screening can effectively detect cell abnormalities and make treatment possible. However, in the developing world these recommended procedures are not readily available.

GAWH Campaign on Cervical Cancer

In 2007 the Global Alliance for Women's Health (GAWH) began a campaign to prevent cervical cancer worldwide and to bring vaccination, screening, and treatment technologies to women in the developing world. As part of our campaign, we have:

  • Held a symposium entitled "Preventing Cervical Cancer with HPV Vaccines" during the 51st UN Commission on the Status of Women
  • Initiated a worldwide network of individuals and organizations to disseminate information on cervical cancer screening and treatment, as well as on HPV vaccines

Although GAWH supports initiatives to prevent cervical cancer through HPV vaccines, we recognize that this alone is not sufficient to address the issue of cervical cancer in the developing world. Not all women have had or will have access to these vaccines, so there undeniably remains a great need to expand treatment and screening technologies. GAWH will not leave behind the women who already have or who will potentially develop cervical cancer.