Published: 05/21/2024

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 been exploring ways to address this challenge with funding from The Stanford Cancer Institute’s “Under One Umbrella-Women’s Cancer Innovation” program.

The program, which began in the spring of 2023, focused on a high-risk population of refugee and migrant women in Tijuana, Mexico. Using new and innovative technology, the group sought 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.

More than a quarter of patients screened tested positive. Researchers found that it was difficult to provide same-day colposcopies or treatment, as they’d hoped to be able to do. This was due to barriers with time, communication, and transportation — highlighting the need for adapative strategies to serve this vulnerable and highly transient population.

Now the group is pivoting its efforts and applying lessons learned in Tijuana to screening and treating newly arrived refugee and migrant and underserved women within US boundaries, said Kay Daniels, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. She is a co-leader of the initiative alongside Stanford physicians, Paul Blumenthal, MD and Michelle Khan, MD.

The Families at the Border initiative supported the program with financial donations, and the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health covered student travel costs to Tijuana.