Screening & Treatment
Currently, cervical cancer is prevented primarily by screening for and treating identified precancerous lesions of the cervix.
To identify these lesions, health workers might examine cervical cells using the Papanicolau (Pap) smear; they might visually inspect the surface of the cervix; or they might use DNA tests to detect the presence of cervical cancer-causing strains of HPV in women's blood. When women are treated for precancerous lesions, the survival rate is nearly 100%; however, early detection depends on frequent and accurate screening.
Traditional screening programs have contributed to a significant reduction in cervical cancer incidence in the industrialized world. Unfortunately, access to such programs is extremely limited for women in developing countries, and unlikely to improve in the near future. As a result, women in developing countries represent 80% of cervical cancer-related deaths. Fortunately, new screening methods may be available soon (and others are being developed) that are simple, rapid, affordable and accurate, making them suitable for use in poor areas.
Photo: PATH/Mike Wang