Cervical cancer is a major cause of mortality and premature death among women in their most productive years in low- and medium-resourced countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, despite the fact that it is an eminently preventable cancer. While cytology screening programmes have resulted in a substantial reduction of cervical cancer mortality in developed countries, they have been shown to have a wide range of sensitivity in most routine settings including in developing countries. Although liquid-based cytology improves sample adequacy, claims on improved sensitivity remain controversial. Human papillomavirus testing is more sensitive than cytology, but whether this gain represents protection against future cervical cancer is not clear. Recently, in a randomized trial, the use of visual inspection with 4% acetic acid was shown to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality. Cryotherapy and large loop excision of the transformation zone are effective and safe treatment methods for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. The clinical stage of cancer is the single most important prognostic factor and should be carefully evaluated in choosing optimal treatment between surgery and radiotherapy, with or without chemotherapy. At the public health level, health care infrastructure, affordability and capacity for initiating and sustaining vaccination and screening programmes are critical factors in cervical cancer control. On the other hand, an informed practitioner can utilize the multiple opportunities in routine primary care interactions for prevention, screening, early detection and prompt referral for treatment.

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