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PAHO strategy calls for strengthening existing programs and adopting new technologies

Washington, D.C., October 2, 2008 (PAHO)—Member countries of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) pledged support today for a new PAHO strategy to fight cervical cancer, a disease that claims some 27,500 women's lives each year in the Americas.

The strategy calls for stepped-up action and investments to strengthen screening and prevention programs in Latin America and the Caribbean and also urges countries to consider adopting newly available HPV vaccines and new screening technologies. It was approved by PAHO's Directing Council, which is holding its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this week.

The PAHO Regional Strategy and Plan of Action for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control addresses problems that have kept cervical cancer mortality rates relatively high in Latin America and the Caribbean, unlike in North America, where deaths from the disease dropped precipitously during the last half-century thanks to screening programs using the Pap test. Women in Latin America and the Caribbean today face seven times the risk of death from cervical cancer than women in North America.

Pap tests have been used in Latin America and the Caribbean for more than 30 years but have failed to produce dramatic reductions in cervical cancer mortality. Experts say the reasons include problems of access to health services; poor coverage, organization and follow-up in screening and treatment programs; low public awareness of the disease; and socio-cultural factors that limit women's access to information as well as their ability to demand and use prevention services.

In signing on to the PAHO strategy, health authorities called for upgrading current prevention and treatment programs utilizing new, evidence-based technologies, particularly in low-resource settings. These include the "screen and treat" approach, in which visual inspection screening is used to detect abnormal cancer cells and is then followed with immediate treatment using cryotherapy to remove precancerous cells. In PAHO-sponsored studies, the method has proven to be equally or more effective than Pap smears in low-resource settings.

The countries also pledged to consider available data to make evidence-based policy decisions for the introduction of HPV vaccines, with emphasis on sustainability. The current price of HPV vaccines is $360 per woman, much more than most vaccines. The countries called on PAHO to advocate for more "equitable access" to the vaccines and other new technologies, including direct DNA testing for HPV.

The PAHO strategy also calls for strengthening countries' health systems using primary health care strategies and providing cervical cancer prevention and treatment as part of community health care. The strategy also calls for social communication campaigns to increase awareness about cervical cancer and healthy sexual behavior among adolescents, adult men and women, and health professionals.

The Pan American Health Organization, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It serves as the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For more information please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3122.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 07:57

The majority of most frequent cancers worldwide can be prevented (01/30/2015)

In marking this year’s World Cancer Day, PAHO/WHO is promoting the theme that "preventing and controlling cancer is not beyond us’’.  This message of optimism focuses on the fact that there are cost-effective interventions, feasible for all resource settings, that can reduce cancer deaths.A recent scientific report on the causes of cancer,  published in the journal Science on 2 January, 2015 by Dr Cristian Tomasetti and Dr Bert Vogelstein, suggests that random mutations, or "bad luck" are major contributors to cancer. Yet, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization´s specialized cancer agency has shown strong disagreement with the conclusion of this report.

IARC experts note the serious contradiction in this report with the extensive body of epidemiological evidence on the causes of cancer, as well as a number of methodological limitations and biases in the analysis presented in the report. Population risk factors are well known for many common cancers, and can be modified through healthy public policies that support healthy lifestyles.

Furthermore, international epidemiological research has shown that most cancer that are frequent in one population are relatively rare in another and that these patterns vary over time. These observations are characteristic of many common cancers and are consistent with a major contribution of environmental and lifestyle exposures, as opposed to genetic variation or chance (“bad luck”).Finally, the IARC calls to continue the search for causes of cancer as well as investing in prevention measures for those cancers whose risk factors are known.

Read the IARC press release


New publication: Early Diagnosis of Childhood Cancer (12/11/2014)

AIEPI cancer childhood ENGIn many countries, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children over 1 year of age. Fortunately, great progress has been made in the treatment of childhood cancer in recent years. While pediatric cancer is not preventable, it can be detected early and treated effectively. In this regard, children with cancer should be referred as early as possible to specialized health facilities, where they can be treated by pediatric oncologists.

PAHO Observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month (10/20/2014)

Breast cancer can be detected early and treated effectively.  This is the message PAHO is promoting throughout the month of October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  

Leaders in the Americas show political commitment to change the history of women's cancer (10/10/2014)

“Confessions” reveal cancer survivors’ stories (02/06/2014)

Dispelling myths can help prevent cancer deaths (02/03/2014)


Preventing cervical cancer in Argentina (05/28/2013)

Innovative Strategies for Cervical and Breast Cancer Control: a regional meeting to share experiences and lessons learned (04/18/2013)

eHealth Experience: Get The Message Campaign in the Caribbean (02/24/2013)

Women’s Cancer Initiative: A joint commitment to save lives (02/10/2013)

New multi-sector partnership seeks to reduce cervical and breast cancer in the Americas (02/08/2013)

Derribando mitos sobre el cáncer (02/05/2013)

PAHO seeks to prevent breast and cervical cancer, which claim some 120,000 lives each year in the Americas (02/05/2013)

Cuba – Battling cancer with biotechnology (02/03/2013)

World Cancer Day, 4 February 2013 (02/02/2013)


Cervical Cancer Experts gather to develop new guidelines (11/06/2012)

Partnerships are Critical for an Effective Cancer Prevention and Control, Dr. Andrus Says (08/28/2012)

World Cancer Day: "Together it is possible" (02/03/2012)

Two-thirds of future cancer cases will be in developing countries (02/01/2012)


Physical activity can help reduce risk of some cancers (02/03/2011)


Countries Pledge New Action to Reduce Cervical Cancer Deaths (10/03/2008)

Better Screening, Treatment, and Affordable Vaccines Can Prevent Doubling of Cervical Cancer Deaths (05/29/2008)

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