Cervical Cancer Prevention
Cervical cancer has a single known causative agent – the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). A great deal of research has been done on HPV and cervical cancer prevention, and it is now known which of the HPV DNA subtypes are the most deadly. There is a highly effective vaccine that prevents the majority of cervical cancers before they begin. Furthermore, cervical cancer takes years to develop and there is a pre-cancer stage that can be easily identified and treated. Armed with this knowledge, the eradication of cervical cancer becomes a truly viable goal because it can be attacked at several different phases of its life cycle.
There are two vaccines currently available that protect against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer: Gardasil and Cerarix. Both Gardasil and Cevarix protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which together account for approximately 70% of all cervical cancer cases. Gardasil has also been shown to be effective in preventing some cancers in men caused by HPV. Both of these vaccines are given in three doses, over a period of 6 months and cost approximately $500. It is important to remember that these vaccines cannot cure an existing HPV infection or treat cervical cancer. Therefore, to be effective, these vaccines must be administered before HPV infection occurs.
Even once the vaccine is available, the benefits of wide-scale population coverage will not be achieved for many decades, reinforcing the need to continue focusing on secondary prevention through screening. BHI believes that low-cost, low-tech screening methods, such as Visual Inspection of the cervix with Acetic Acid (VIA), is an effective low-tech, low-cost method of screening for cervical cancer.