Cervical Cancer

Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, with 604 000 new cases in 2020. About 90% of the 342 000 deaths caused by cervical cancer occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality are in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Central America and South-East Asia. Regional differences in the cervical cancer burden are related to inequalities in access to vaccination, screening and treatment services, risk factors including HIV prevalence, and social and economic determinants such as sex, gender biases and poverty. Women living with HIV are 6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer compared to the general population, and an estimated 5% of all cervical cancer cases are attributable to HIV. The contribution of HIV to cervical cancer disproportionately affects younger women, and as a result, 20% of children who lose their mother to cancer do so due to cervical cancer.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection which can affect the skin, genital area and throat. Almost all sexually active people will be infected at some point in their lives, usually without symptoms. In most cases the immune system clears HPV from the body. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV can cause abnormal cells to develop, which go on to become cancer.

Persistent HPV infection of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus or womb, which opens into the vagina – also called the birth canal) if left untreated, causes 95% of cervical cancers. Typically, it takes 15–20 years for abnormal cells to become cancer, but in women with weakened immune systems, such as untreated HIV, this process can be faster and take 5–10 years. Risk factors for cancer progression include the grade of oncogenicity of the HPV type, immune status, the presence of other sexually transmitted infections, number of births, young age at first pregnancy, hormonal contraceptive use, and smoking.


Boosting public awareness, access to information and services are key to prevention and control across the life course.

Being vaccinated at age 9–14 years is a very effective way to prevent HPV infection, cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.

Screening from the age of 30 (25 years in women living with HIV) can detect cervical disease, which when treated, also prevents cervical cancer.

At any age with symptoms or concerns, early detection followed by prompt quality treatment can cure cervical cancer.

Tuesday, January 9. 2024



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