Cervical cancer elimination


What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system and is located in the lower part of the womb, forming the opening from the womb to the vagina.[1]  

Cervical cancer remains one of the most common causes of death for women globally and ranks 4th of all cancers. Currently, every 2 minutes a life is lost to this disease. Importantly, it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in 42 countries.[2]

In 2020, the global mortality statistics increased to over 340 000 women and these are likely to continue to grow, particularly in underprivileged and vulnerable communities. Current data suggests that 90% of all cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, due largely to poor access to screening and early detection and treatment of both pre-cancers and cancer. [3]



Diagram showing stage 1B cervical cancer
Author: Cancer Research UK​ - CC BY-SA 4.0

What causes cervical cancer?

Most cervical cancers are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV is a group of viruses that are extremely common worldwide. There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 14 are cancer-causing (also known as high risk types). Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions. There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and oropharynx.[4]


Prevention, detection & treatment

Can Cervical cancer be prevented?

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and successfully treatable forms of cancer, if it is detected and diagnosed early and managed effectively:

  1. Vaccinations: HPV vaccines protect against the common cancer-causing types of human papilloma virus and can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. 
  2. Screening: Testing for HPV-infection in women aged 30-49 followed by the examination of the cervix for pre-cancers permits local treatment and is a second opportunity to prevent cervical cancer.  


Cervical cancer is often curable if detected early

Like many cancers, the earlier cervical cancer is detected, the higher the chances are of survival. For example, in the US, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer at an advanced stage is 15%, compared with 93% if diagnosed when the cancer has not spread*. This holds true in lower income settings as well. In India, a study among rural women with cervical cancer found the five-year survival rate to be 9% when diagnosed at Stage IV, which soars to 78% when diagnosed earlier at Stage I.


Cervical cancer treatment

Early stage cervical cancer: When detected and diagnosed early, cervical cancer is usually treated through surgery, with radiotherapy or a combination of both. 

Advanced cervical cancer:  When cervical cancer has developed further, radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy is often used to treat the cancer. 
In some cases, treatments can have lasting impact, including removal of the womb, premature menopause and infertility.

Palliating cervical cancer: When cervical cancer cannot be cured, there are ways to slow its progression, relieve pain and extend and improve quality of life. 

Source:  National Health Service: Cervical Cancer Treatment


Two articles published in The Lancet show that 62 million women's lives could be saved by 2120 if the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed measures for cervical cancer elimination are implemented.

This analysis in 78 low-income and lower-middle-income countries describes the mortality impact of achieving WHO cervical cancer elimination targets.


What does Elimination mean?

In 2020, the World Health Organization approved a strategy aimed at eliminating cervical cancer worldwide within generations. The Global Strategy identifies the following threshold: cervical cancer would no longer be considered to be a public health problem when all countries reach an annual incidence rate of 4 cases per 100,000 women or less. This should happen within the lifetime of today’s young girls. [5]

The elimination initiative suggests a three-pillar approach:

No one intervention alone will be enough. The strategy requires accelerated action in prevention, screening and cancer management.  

  1. HPV vaccination 
  2. screening and early treatment of pre-cancerous lesions and
  3. prompt referral for treatment and palliative care of invasive cervical cancer.  
Three part approach of the global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

WHO estimates that achieving and sustaining the 90:70:90 targets will avert 74 million new cases of cervical cancer and 62 million deaths in 78 low- and middle-income countries in the coming decades. 


UICC's action on Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer content hub
News and blogs
Screening has started as part of the SUCCESS project in the Ivory Coast
7 July 2021

New recommendations for screening and treatment of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is still one of the most common cancers worldwide. Many women – especially in low-income countries – die from cervical cancer, which is both preventable and treatable. 

Medical practitioner looks into microscope, to suggest the power of and need for innovation to reduce the burden of cancer
5 May 2021

Innovations in cancer care bring health closer to patients in LMICs

Innovations and resource-appropriate interventions can help close the equity gap in cancer care between high- and lower-income regions. Interview with Dr Omolola Salako of the Sebeccly Cancer Centre in Nigeria.

Stephen Connor, Executive Director of the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) (left) and Cary Adams, CEO of UICC (right)
16 April 2021

In Conversation: The role of palliative care in cancer care

Dr Cary Adams of UICC speaks with Dr Stephen Connor of WHPCA on the importance of palliative care for people living with cancer. This is the first in a new series of UICC Conversations where high-level experts provide insight into key aspects of cancer care and related issues.

Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWHLA) and Women Coalition Against Cancer (WOCACA, featured here) share the same goal of a more holistic approach to providing women with Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Malawi
13 April 2021

Building demand for cervical cancer elimination services in Malawi

Two civil society organisations in Malawi identify common ground and join forces to empower women in their communities.

Only USD 10.5bn are required to achieve 2030 cervical cancer elimination targets, services that, when sustained. would avert 62 million deaths by 2120. Photo by Matthew Henry / Burst.com
22 March 2021

Ending the inequity in preventing and treating cervical cancer

UICC and its members have begun working with WHO, government agencies and civil society partners to meet the challenge of implementing the Global Strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in their own countries.

4 March 2021

Reducing inequities and improving outcomes in women's cancers

This International Women’s Day on 8th March, WHO builds on the momentum generated by the cervical cancer elimination strategy with a new initiative on breast cancer, an action supported by UICC’s own investment in women cancers.

Last update: 
Friday 17 September 2021