The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday launched a global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer.
The international health agency outlined vaccination, screening, and treatment as major strategies to eliminate the killer disease.
It said the implementation could reduce more than 40 percent of new cases of the disease and five million related deaths by 2050.
“Today’s development represents a historic milestone because it marks the first time that 194 countries commit to eliminating cancer – following adoption of a resolution at this year’s World Health Assembly,” WHO said in a statement on its website.
The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said there are cost-effective based tools to eliminate the deadly disease.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. It is also curable if detected early and adequately treated, yet it is the fourth most common cancer among women globally.
It is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix (the part of a woman’s body that connects the uterus or womb and vagina). It is characterised by uncontrollable cell growth in this region of the body.
The cause of cervical cancer and a major culprit in the rise of the condition is a sexually transmitted disease – Human Papillomavirus or HPV.
In 2018, there were an estimated 14,943 new cases and an estimated 10,403 deaths from cervical cancer in Nigeria, thereby accounting for one of the highest numbers worldwide.
WHO noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has further posed challenges to preventing deaths due to cancer, including the interruption of vaccination, screening and treatment services.
It urges all countries to ensure that vaccination, screening and treatment can continue safely, with all necessary precautions.
The agency said meeting the above targets by 2030 will ensure 90 percent of girls are fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age.
“70 percent of women screened using a high-performance test by age 35 and again by 45.
“90 percent of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (90 percent of women with pre-cancer treated and 90 percent of women with invasive cancer managed).”
WHO noted that if no action is taken, the annual number of new cases of cervical cancer is expected to increase from 570,000 to 700,000 between 2018 and 2030, while the annual number of deaths is projected to rise from 311,000 to 400,000.
It said the incidence in low- and middle-income countries is nearly twice as high and the death rates three times as high as those in high-income countries.
A woman’s right
WHO Assistant Director-General, Princess Nothemba, said 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,” she said.
Nothemba noted that the huge burden of mortality related to cervical cancer is a consequence of decades of neglect by the global health community.
She however said the script can be rewritten.
“Critical developments include the availability of prophylactic vaccines; low-cost approaches to screening and treating cervical cancer precursors; and novel approaches to surgical training.
“Through a shared global commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and leaving no-one behind, the countries of the world are forging a new path to ending cervical cancer,” she said.