Empowering Women's Health: SHE-CAN Study Tackles Cervical Cancer Challenges in India

In May 2018, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call to action for the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health concern. Central to this initiative is the recognition of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its strong association with cervical cancer. Over 95% of cervical cancer cases are due to a persistent infection with HPV. Despite the WHO’s efforts, cervical cancer continues to prevail highlighting the inequities faced by low- and middle-income countries. Alarmingly, almost 90% of cervical cancer-related deaths occur in these regions, primarily due to limited access to screening, testing, and treatment facilities (WHO, 2020).

In India, the healthcare programs in the states of Tamil Nadu and Mizoram have exhibited stark differences. Tamil Nadu is more easily accessible and richly populated, while Mizoram is predominantly rural and hard to reach. However, in both states, less than 10% of women have undergone cervical cancer screening (Oommen et al. 2023). Access to education and training for healthcare professionals to conduct screenings and provide treatment is scarce, and those capable of serving their communities are situated in low-quality healthcare systems. Recognizing these challenges, SHE-CAN, in collaboration with RTI researchers, was initiated as an implementation-based research project focused on self-collection of HPV specimens for screening and prevention of cervical cancer. This study not only addresses the lack of awareness surrounding gender-specific diseases in India but also tackles the barriers to screening and treatment that jeopardize women’s health. By empowering women to collect their own specimens for HPV and cervical cancer screening, this approach not only educates women about health concerns but also contributes to the overarching goal of eliminating cervical cancer. Read more about this study here: Protocol for the formative phase of a trial (SHE-CAN) to test co-designed implementation strategies for HPV-based cervical screening among vulnerable women in two diverse settings in India.

This project was funded the National Health and Medical Research Council.