A vaccine for women’s health

PATH

Preparing the way for a new tool in the fight against cervical cancer

Over the next several years, young women in India, Peru, Uganda, and Vietnam will become the first in the developing world to live without fear of cervical cancer—as PATH and our partners begin pilot introduction of new vaccines for the disease. These four countries are laying the groundwork for vaccination throughout the developing world.

Missed opportunities to save lives

Nearly 500,000 women each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and nearly 250,000 die from it. A disproportionate number of those deaths occur in developing countries.

In wealthy countries, screening programs help keep cervical cancer rates low. These programs are effective because most women can easily get to health facilities for regular Pap smears to detect signs of cancer. When cancer is found, it can be successfully treated while still in the early stages. But developing countries often lack these resources, and women there miss out on lifesaving screening and treatment.

Protection against a cancer-causing virus

New vaccines now are available to improve women’s health by protecting them against the strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause most cervical cancer. The new vaccines will make it possible to protect women before they become infected—another line of defense for those who don’t have access to regular screening.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. There are more than 100 strains of the virus, but only a handful cause cancer. Women are usually infected in their teens, 20s, or early 30s, but they don’t show symptoms until much later, so they are not aware. Without screening, there are no warning signs until the cancer has become life-threatening.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.