Researchers Suggest Cost-effective Solutions to Breast and Cervical Cancers


Salman Asif / UN Women Asia and the Pacific
A 2013 campaign in Pakistan highlighted the formidable risk of breast for women in the country, and encouraged education and screenings.

In November 2016, The Lancet published a three-part series on women and cancer with renewed estimates about the expected number of diagnoses in the next 15 years.

According to the researchers, hailing from University of Toronto, University of Cape Town, and King’s College London, the number of women to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the world will double from 1.7 million in 2015 to 3.2 million in 2030. In the same period, cervical cancer diagnoses are estimated to rise by at least 25 percent to 700,000.

Most deaths from these diseases will be in low- and middle-income countries. The researchers emphasized that, while the highest ratio of cancer cases are still reported in high-income countries, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Mongolia, and Papua New Guinea have the highest ratio of deaths.

It’s a grim outlook. Luckily, they’ve offered solutions as well.

“There is a widespread misconception that breast and cervical cancers are too difficult and expensive to prevent and treat, particularly in resource-poor countries where the burden of these diseases is highest. But nothing could be further from the truth,” said lead scientist Professor Ophira Ginsburg of the University of Toronto, Canada.

The Lancet series listed several high-impact, cost-effective solutions for developing countries that don’t require hospitalization or large investments. They include the following:

  • Distributing a basic cancer control package that would cost as little as US$1.72 per person.
  • A universal HPV vaccination of all 12 year old girls, which could prevent 690,000 cancer cases and 420,000 deaths worldwide over their lifetime.
  • A low-cost method known as visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) to screen for cervical cancer is also promising. (A previous study of 150,000 women in India over 15 years found that this method could reduce cervical cancer deaths by 31 percent.)
  • Clinical breast examination screening and breast awareness campaigns, provided that there is political support behind them.
  • Finally, reducing poverty and elevating the status of women, both essential to preventing deaths from breast and cervical cancers.