Iowans want funds to stop cervical cancer around the globe

DES MOINES — A type of cancer that no longer poses a critical threat in Iowa is still a leading killer of women in other parts of the world and Iowa activists are pushing for help.

Danielle Oswald-Thole, the Iowa government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, says cervical cancer is the focus of a new campaign. “We’re asking Congress to act now on this,” Oswald-Thole says. “Currently, less than one half of one-percent of U.S. Global Health funding addresses cervical cancer. We really believe that we have the responsibility to end suffering and death from this disease globally.”

report being released by the network, “Saving Women’s Lives: Accelerating Action to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Globally,” highlights this as an opportunity to eliminate this one type of cancer worldwide. There’s a particular urgency in 42 countries, most of them in Africa, South America and the Pacific Rim.

“Cervical cancer remains the primary cause of cancer-related deaths among women in these low and middle-income countries,” Oswald-Thole says. “Today, 90% of all cervical cancer deaths globally occur in low- and middle-income countries.” Wiping out cervical cancer is possible, she says, and simple tools are already in place to make it happen, like the HPV vaccine.

“While we’ve made tremendous gains here in the U.S., seeing the cervical cancer death rate drop by 50% in the last 30 years,” she says, “we have an immense amount of work to do globally to make sure we see these same gains in low- to middle-income countries.” It’s estimated more than 17,800 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Iowa this year. Of those, only about one-hundred will be for cervical cancer.