Cervical Cancer Elimination: Health Agencies Issue a Call for Accelerated Action

Cancer Elimination: Health Agencies Issue a Call for Accelerated
Cancer Elimination

Cervical Cancer Elimination:

Health agencies are sounding the alarm on the urgent need for global efforts to eliminate cervical cancer, a preventable disease claiming the lives of one woman every two minutes, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. The push for action comes ahead of the first-ever global forum on cervical cancer elimination, taking place from March 5 to 7 in Cartagena, Colombia, and hosted by Spain, Colombia, and nine leading development and health agencies.

Cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most common cancer among women globally, and it stands out as one of the few cancers that can be prevented through vaccination. Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson for Unitaid, emphasized the proven path to elimination, involving vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, combined with HPV screening and treatment.

In 2020, an estimated 348,000 women succumbed to cervical cancer, with 90% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that annual deaths from cervical cancer could soar to 410,000 by 2030 if significant changes are not implemented. The WHO has outlined three key targets to guide countries toward cervical cancer elimination: ensuring 90% of girls receive the HPV vaccine by age 15, screening 70% of women with a high-performance test by ages 35 and 45, and providing treatment for 90% of women with cervical disease.

Sub-Saharan Africa bears the highest cervical cancer burden globally, exacerbated by the HIV epidemic, as the common HPV virus is sexually transmitted. The WHO emphasizes the need to address inequities in access to prevention and healthcare, particularly in communities affected by social and economic deprivation. Prebo Barango, a specialist at the WHO, underscores the importance of vaccinating young girls and expanding access to screening and early treatment for older women.

Challenges to vaccination, such as the recommended age falling outside the standard vaccination age and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to low vaccine uptake. However, the WHO remains optimistic about the potential impact of a one-dose HPV vaccine, calling it a game-changer that could increase global reach and reduce costs. Initiatives like the GAVI vaccine alliance, providing low-cost HPV vaccine doses to developing countries, and agreements secured by Unitaid to reduce the price of HPV tests, offer hope in the fight against cervical cancer.

The global forum serves as a pivotal moment to accelerate progress on the WHO’s global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer, a groundbreaking promise made in 2020 with nearly 200 countries pledging support. As the world collectively focuses on this critical health issue, addressing barriers and promoting equitable access to prevention and healthcare becomes paramount in the quest to eliminate cervical cancer.

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