Published: 12/10/2022

“One woman dies of cervical cancer every two minutes. Each one is a tragedy, and we can prevent it.”

 –Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General 2018

The project is funded by Under one Umbrella – Women’s Cancer innovation, through the Stanford Cancer Institute

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, despite being largely preventable. Most cervical cancer cases can be prevented through primary care (vaccination for human papillomavirus, or HPV) and secondary approaches (screening for and treating precancerous lesions).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the goal that by 2030 all countries will be on the path to eliminating cervical cancer. To achieve this goal, it is critical to focus on low and middle-income countries, where nearly 90% of the 311,000 cervical cancer deaths worldwide occurred in 2018.

A critical challenge to achieving this is identifying and then providing early and effective treatment for women in resource-poor areas of the world.

A group within Stanford Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has recently received a generous grant to tackle this issue. The Stanford Cancer Institute awarded this grant through a special program titled Under One Umbrella-Women’s Cancer Innovation.

The program, estimated to begin in the spring of 2023, will focus on high-risk population of refugee and migrant women in Tijuana, Mexico. Using new and innovative technology, the group hopes to provide screening and treatment all in one day, thus eliminating the need for women to travel multiple times to get the care they need.

“With this project, we hope to explore whether new technologies can enable local providers to offer better cancer prevention in a low-resource setting,” said Kay Daniels, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a leader of the initiative. Through Stanford’s Families at the Border Initiative, Daniels has been supporting maternal and child health among refugees and migrants at the U.S. Mexico border.

Patients will be screened for HPV, and if they test positive, will have the chance to receive a colposcopy examination with computer-assisted visual evaluation of cervical images. If needed, they will be offered immediate treatment. Stanford faculty will train local providers to ensure that the program is sustainable.

In addition, the program will employ portable equipment that can be used to train in-country providers in other low-resource areas, validating a sustainable model for other countries.