About The Series

Welcome to The Lancet Series on Health, Equity and Women’s Cancers.

The Lancet has commissioned a group of experts in breast and cervical cancers, women’s health, health economics, and gender equity to spark new interdisciplinary collaborations and to advance progress in this neglected area of global health

Background on women’s cancers

In 2012, breast and cervical cancer took the lives of 522,000 and 266,000 women respectively. That means that half a million more women died from these two cancers alone than from complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Breast and cervical cancer are the most common cancers in women, with the majority of deaths occurring in young, mostly premenopausal women in LMICs where cancer myths, stigma and taboos about the female body are common. For instance, over 85 per cent of new cases of cervical cancer and 88 per cent of cervical cancer deaths occur in less developed regions, where women with breast cancer are often diagnosed when their disease is advanced and incurable.

Furthermore, extreme poverty compounded by gender inequity often limits a woman’s choice to seek cancer care. Where proper medical care is available, it is often unaffordable; the direct and indirect costs of care can lead to catastrophic expenditure that destroys not only the woman’s future, but also her family’s. But for most of the world’s population, proper medical care is unavailable; there is little opportunity for early detection of breast and cervical cancer, and limited access to safe surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, as well as supportive and palliative care.

So where do women’s cancers fit on the global health agenda? Despite significant advocacy, media attention and funding for cancer in high-income countries, breast and cervical cancer are effectively neglected diseases in low-income countries, where cancer contributes to the cycle of poverty.

The Series

The Lancet Series on Health, Equity and Women’s Cancers will seek to provide a framework for radically increasing progress in closing the global cancer divide for women.

The papers in this Series will include reviews and critical analyses to describe the

  • global burden of breast and cervical cancer and the social and economic costs to families and societies;
  • untapped potential of frugal innovations and already proven low-cost interventions to reduce disparities in cancer outcomes;
  • challenges and opportunities to take these innovations to scale; and
  • recommendations for translating evidence to policy for real-world impact.

The Series will employ an equity lens that is aligned with the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health and the ongoing work of the UN Inter-agency Network on Gender Equality. We will build on key findings and recommendations from relevant works, including "Closing the Cancer Divide: A Blueprint to Expand Access in Low and Middle Income Countries", the first report of the Global Task Force for Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control, Global Health 2035, The Lancet Non-Communicable Diseases Series 2013, the report of the Global Surgery Commission, and the forthcoming Cancer Module in Disease Control Priorities, third edition (World Bank), as well as key reports relevant to women’s health throughout the life course. The critical role of governance will also be highlighted.

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