WHO launches global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

WHO launches global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer
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New Delhi (NVI): The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer from around the world, which could save five million lives among women and girls by 2050.

The WHO‘s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, outlined three key steps—vaccination, screening and treatment and implementation of all three could reduce more than 40 per cent of new cases of the disease and 5 million related deaths by 2050.

“Eliminating any cancer would have once seemed an impossible dream, but we now have the cost-effective, evidence-based tools to make that dream a reality,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“But we can only eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem if we match the power of the tools we have with unrelenting determination to scale up their use globally,” Tedros added.

During the World Health Assembly annual meeting last week, all 194 member countries agreed to a plan towards eliminating the cancer.

They involved strategy which include vaccination of 90 per cent of girls with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age, screening of 70 per cent of women using a high-performance test by age 35 and again by 45 and treating 90 per cent of women identified with cervical disease, the WHO said.

The strategy also stressed upon investing in the interventions to meet these targets that can generate substantial economic and societal returns. In addition, WHO estimates that USD 3.20 will be returned to the economy for every dollar invested through 2050 and beyond, owing to increases in women’s workforce participation.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally which is a preventable disease. It is curable if detected early and adequately treated.

According to the WHO latest figures, the annual global cases of cervical cancer could increase from 5,70,000 to 7,00,000 between 2018 and 2030, while deaths could increase from 3,11,000 to 4,00,00 during the same timeframe.

In low- and middle-income countries, its incidence is nearly twice as high and its death rates three times as high as those in high-income countries.

“The huge burden of mortality related to cervical cancer is a consequence of decades of neglect by the global health community. However, the script can be rewritten,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela.

She added that, “The fight against cervical cancer is also a fight for women’s rights: the unnecessary suffering caused by this preventable disease reflects the injustices that uniquely affect women’s health around the world.”

WHO further said that its new strategy comes at a challenging time with world focused on battling COVID-19 pandemic which has posed challenges to preventing deaths due to cancer.

The coronavirus has interrupted vaccination, screening and treatment services, while border closures have reduced the availability of supplies. However, WHO urges all countries to ensure that all three steps for cervical cancer can continue safely, with all necessary precautions.