Cervical Cancer is a leading cause of death among women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite being highly preventable, it kills 35,700 women each year in the Americas, and the majority (80%) of these cases are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mortality rates three times higher in Latin America and the Caribbean than in North America highlights the existing inequities in wealth, gender and access to health services in the Region.
If current trends continue, cervical cancer deaths in the Americas are projected to increase to over 51,500 in 2030, due to the growing population and gains in life expectancy; 89% of these deaths will occur in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Screening women for cervical pre-cancer, followed by treatment, is a cost-effective intervention to prevent cervical cancer. Vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can reduce significatively the risk of cervical cancer. PAHO recommends to vaccinate girls from 9 to 14 years-old, when it is more effective. HPV vaccines are available in 35 countries and territories of the Americas, but coverage rates with the two doses do not reach yet 80% of girls. Along with HPV vaccination, screening and treatment of precanceous lesions can prevent new cases and deaths.
Cervical cancer can be treated and cured, if detected early. If not treated, cervical cancer is almost always fatal.
In the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action for Comprehensive Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control, PAHO is working with countries in the Americas to:
1. Conduct a situation analysis;
2. Intensify information, education and counseling;
3. Fortify screening and pre-cancer treatment programs;
4. Establish or strengthen information systems and cancer registries;
5. Improve access and quality of cancer treatment and of palliative care;
6. Generate evidence to facilitate decision making regarding HPV vaccine introduction;
7. Equitable access and affordable comprehensive cervical cancer prevention.
Demonstration projects have been established using alternative screening approaches in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Technical assistance is provided to countries in the Region to strengthen their cervical cancer programs.
HPV vaccines are included in PAHO's Revolving Fund, enabling bulk purchase at one unique price for all countries in the Americas, and a cost-effectiveness model has been developed by PAHO’s ProVac Initiative to support decision making about HPV vaccine introduction and strategies to strengthen cervical cancer screening.
With respect to treatment, PAHO has a longstanding history of working with Ministries of Health in the Americas to improve quality and access to radiotherapy services and strengthen capacity for cancer treatment, working together with the International Atomic Energy Agency.