Ending the health inequity of cervical cancer

Each year, over half a million women around the world are diagnosed with cervical cancer. In the United States, Pap tests help detect this cancer early and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is helping to prevent it. But these options are expensive or impractical in developing countries, where nine out of 10 new cases of cervical cancer occur. UCSF Bixby Center researchers are working on low cost, effective cervical cancer screening tools designed specifically for low-resource settings. The vision is to use these new tools to catch this cancer early and then provide life-saving treatment.

Along with partner clinics in western Kenya, Bixby researchers are working toward this vision. Many people in western Kenya are living with HIV, and the virus makes it more likely that a woman exposed to HPV will develop cervical cancer. The researchers are testing a community-wide health campaign to inform people of their options for cervical cancer screening and treatment. Nearly 900 women participated in the first screenings. The researchers notified women of their screening results with text messages and home visits, which allowed them to give women with positive results crucial information about how to get treatment. Now they want to know what the women think: they’re interviewing women to learn how to make screening even easier and better in the future.

Ultimately, the researchers will put all they learn into a toolkit that will help health care providers in other low-resource settings conduct successful community health campaigns to reduce cervical cancer. On this World Cancer Day, we believe that this study is a crucial step towards addressing the fundamental health inequity of cervical cancer around the world.