Global Impact of Cervical Cancer
Where a person lives should not determine if they develop a cancer or die from it. We must work together to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue and to reduce the burden that millions face from all cancers.
According to the #WCD website, World Cancer Day is a chance to reflect on what you can do, make a pledge, and take action. As a part of the initiative, #WeCanICan I wanted to do my part and explore the global burden of cervical cancer.
I started out my research related to the global impact of cervical cancer by visiting the World Health Organization's website for some fast facts.
I found that cervical cancer is one of the world's deadliest cancers for women! It is responsible for more the 270,000 deaths annually world wide! Of those deaths, approximately 85% occur in developing countries. You know what else? Cervical cancer is also one of the most easily preventable women's cancers!
In December 2014, the WHO published a new guidance for the prevention and control of cervical cancer. This publication (C4GEP) gives a broad vision of what a comprehensive approach to cervical cancer might look like. It specifically outlines the strategies for comprehensive cervical cancer prevention and control. It also highlights the need for collaboration across programs, organizations, and partnerships. This guide includes developments in technologies and strategies which can address the gaps between the needs for cervical cancer prevention and control.
Through access and utilization of known screening processes and vaccination we could prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer in our lifetime! Think about how powerful that message is. We could eradicate cervical cancer, world wide! However, there are many barriers which exist to eradicating cervical cancer world wide. I would like to take a look at this in two categories. First, I would like take a look at the barriers which exist in developing countries, which make up 85% of the annual deaths due to cervical cancer. Secondly, I would like to take a look at the barriers which exist in the developed countries, which make up 15% of the annual deaths due to cervical cancer.
There are three major barriers to effective healthcare related to cervical cancer in developing countries -
- Lack of money - for many communities in developing countries the lack of financial resources is the primary barrier to healthcare. Global health organizations can help to minimize healthcare costs, however the lack of financial stability remains a major barrier to healthcare.
- Lack of education - in the developing countries there is much poverty and a lack of basic education. People who live in poverty typically aren't provided education about when, why, and where to even access basic healthcare. Another area of concern is the lack of basic public health education. This lack of education can lead to a negative stigma and increased spread of disease.
- Lack of resources - in the United States there are experts all over the country who are trained doctors able to perform annual well woman exams, there are also ample experts able to analyze data collected from Pap tests and provide accurate results for treatment. This is simply not the case in the developing world. There are not enough trained individuals to perform the needed exams and read the analyze the needed information. There are, obviously, also not enough trained professionals able to treat any precancerous lesions which could be found during regular exams. The lack of resources is a major barrier to having adequate healthcare in these developing countries.
How Can We Make a Change?
Looking at these pictures, think about your doctors offices, hospitals, and medical facilities. Can you imagine walking into any of these facilities pictured below and receiving adequate healthcare? When Clara sent me these pictures she noted that there is an open box of pathology (pap smears) slides with a bag of food trash next to it; these are actual results waiting to be analyzed! Boxes of papers that are, in fact, the filing system for the lab; imagine if that is how your files were stored. There are jars of swabs not only open to the air but the collection end is up where it can not only collect other material but someone might grab or touch it; how accurate do you think those test results will be? When I looked at these pictures I noticed many things. There is mold on the walls in a medical facility and on the walls of a diagnostic room. These are real pictures, of what the healthcare conditions are like globally right now.
What Can I Do, Personally?
Want to be involved in a larger way? There are many ideas on the #WCD page to help you get involved on a grander scale!