The European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) has today launched a manual designed specifically for parliamentarians willing to work on legislation and initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of cervical cancer in their countries. The manual is released on the 131st anniversary of the birth of Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou, inventor of the ground-breaking Pap smear test.

The manual contains advice on practical steps parliamentarians can take in advocating for legislation and policies which will improve cervical cancer detection. It also includes an overview of the different models of screening programme as well as two case studies, on Ireland and Georgia. “We hope that this manual will help members of parliament in the region to initiate, or intensify, work on advocating for and enacting effective cervical cancer prevention legislation and policies, thus contributing to long-term changes in the region’s public health landscape”, commented EPF Secretary, Neil Datta, at the launch of the publication.

Every year, some 32,000 women die of cervical cancer in Europe and Central Asia.  Central and Eastern Europe is particularly affected: women in the Eastern part of the region are ten times more likely to die of cervical cancer than those in Western Europe.  Cervical cancer is a deadly disease. But unlike other cancers, most cases – some 80 per cent - can be prevented by putting in place the right policies and programmes.

Stepping up prevention has far-reaching benefits, in particular for young people. The cervical cancer epidemic has a “young face”: it affects mostly young women, many of whom are in the process of starting families and building their careers. In many places, cancer treatment is extremely costly, leading to the impoverishment of entire families.

Members of parliament are uniquely positioned to influence the shape and content of their countries’ public health agendas.  They can lead the development of relevant legislation and policies, and monitor implementation; ensure oversight, accountability, transparency and good governance; make the voice of affected citizens heard; and define the fiscal and budgetary regimes needed to mobilise sufficient resources.

The manual can be downloaded from the EPF website here.