In 2020, the World Health Organization reported 342,000 women died from cervical cancer, with 90 percent of new cases and deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. But with effective prevention and treatment available, there’s no reason cervical cancer should remain such a lethal threat.
Three years ago, the WHO declared Nov. 17 as Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action, drawing focus on the organization’s initiative to eradicate the disease through more accessible treatment and widespread global screening to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the disease in 99 percent of cases. As part of the plan, the WHO is calling on countries to vaccinate 90 percent of girls to protect them from HPV before they reach 15, along with ramping up cancer screening to detect and treat cases in early stages, when they are the most curable.
But can cervical cancer be eliminated? Megan Huchko, M.D., director of the Duke Center for Global Reproductive Health, believes so. She has spent more than a decade trying to improve cervical cancer screening and treatment in Kenya and Uganda, two countries where the disease remains prevalent.
“We’re in a lucky place to have the technology and tools to do it,” says Huchko, an associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and global health at the Duke Global Health Institute. “So, the next century of women and girls will benefit from them.”
In this Quick Take video, Huchko discusses what it will take to achieve the public health milestone, including how countries can implement cost-effective screening strategies and the importance of educating women and girls about the disease and how to prevent it.