cervical cancer

{Photo: Mark Tuschman, Kenya}Photo: Mark Tuschman, Kenya

Not Beyond Us. This is the theme of World Cancer Day 2015. But how will we achieve it? Cancer can seem insurmountable. The global cancer burden is great. In 2012, 8.2 million people died from cancer-related causes—most of them in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, which experiences more cases and more deaths than anywhere else: 60 percent of the 14 million new cancer cases annually and 70 percent of all cancer-related deaths occur in the developing world. The same countries bearing the brunt of the cancer burden have the fewest resources to tackle it.

Still we know and remind one another today, the 4th of February: We can and must stop vaccine-preventable cancers and reduce preventable cancer deaths. We must reduce the cancer inequities.

Cancer, you are not beyond us.  

Among women, cervical cancer is one of the deadliest -- and most easily preventable -- cancers.  Women in the developing world account for 85 percent of the 270,000 deaths every year.  Yet we know that effective prevention, treatment and care are possible.

DRC. {Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Millions of girls in developing nations will avoid getting a deadly form of cancer---cervical cancer---due to a major drop in costs for two vaccines against cervical cancer. Merck and GlaxoSmithKline announced May 9 that costs for the vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) would be cut to below $5 per dose.

Over 275,000 women die from cervical cancer per year in poor countries.

Merck’s Gardasil vaccine will cost $4.50 per dose and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix will cost $4.60 per dose. The costs were negotiated through the GAVI Alliance (see infographic).

This is welcome news, with cancers and other chronic diseases becoming one of global health’s biggest challenges, moving towards the post-Millennium Development Goals era.

A tray of supplies, including household vinegar, used for screening patients. Masufu Hospital, Uganda. {Photo credit: M. Miller/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Miller/MSH.

Using a basic household item like vinegar to screen for a deadly disease is one of those "Aha!" solutions that will save lives. I had never imagined that I’d get to see the procedure in action.

Cervical cancer kills some 250,000 women every year -- over 80 percent from low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Early diagnosis can save lives, but many health facilities in developing countries struggle to find a way to screen women in remote, overcrowded settings. Last year, The New York Times talked about the success of using vinegar as a cervical cancer diagnostic method in Thailand, and yesterday SHOTS, NPR's health blog documented its life-saving use in Botswana.

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