January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. While cervical cancer remains a difficult-to-treat cancer, we have made great progress in prevention. Since the 1970s when regular screening tests were adopted as common practice, the death rate dropped by half.
However, more progress is needed: In 2018 alone, nearly 4,200 women are predicted to die from cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. A total of 13,000 women will receive a cervical cancer diagnosis during the same period. The five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 67 percent, but if the cancer has metastasized and moved to other parts of a woman’s body, that number drops to 17 percent.
Due to the continued impact of cervical cancer, America’s biopharmaceutical companies are committed to developing more and better treatments to combat the condition. According to a 2018 report, there are more than 1,100 medicines in development for the treatment of cancer, 11 of which are intended to treat cervical cancer.
For example, researchers believe that almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Thanks to advances in biopharmaceutical research, currently-available preventive vaccines for cervical cancer help protect against many strains of HPV, reducing the chances a woman will develop HPV and cervical cancer in her lifetime. Additionally, many researchers are working to bring more targeted treatments and immunotherapies to patients with cervical cancer as well.
We’ve made great progress so far, but we’re not done yet. Every day, scientists continue to research new ways to treat and prevent cervical cancer in an effort to push the death rate down to zero.