The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday launched a strategy to eliminate cervical cancer, arguing that through widespread access to vaccination, screening and treatment. The UN organization estimates that 5 million lives would be saved by 2050 thanks to this strategy.
“Eliminating cancer would have seemed like an impossible dream before, but today we have effective, inexpensive, evidence-based tools to make that dream come true,” said the director. WHO General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.
Cancer of the cervix is preventable. It is also curable if caught early and treated appropriately. Yet, it is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide.
In the absence of new measures, the annual number of new cases should increase from 570,000 to 700,000 between 2018 and 2030, and the annual number of deaths increase from 311,000 to 400,000, warns the WHO.
“We can only eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, however, if we harness the power of the tools we have at our disposal and unwavering determination to expand their use globally,” underlined the head of WHO.
To date, the three key tools against this cancer are vaccination, screening and treatment. They have been generalized in most rich countries. But the situation is far from the same in the rest of the world, especially because of the high cost of the vaccine. The WHO strategy aims for 90% of girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (responsible for cervical cancer) by the age of 15.
It also predicts that 70% of women will be screened by the age of 35 and 45, and that 90% of women diagnosed with cervical disease will be treated.
If these measures are successfully implemented by 2030, new cases of the disease could be reduced by more than 40% and the number of disease-related deaths by 5 million by 2050.
All countries will then be on track to eliminate this cancer, according to the WHO. The UN agency is however aware that the strategy is launched in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which jeopardizes the prevention of deaths from cancer given the interruption of vaccination services.