In a first, WHO commits to eliminate cervical cancer globally

The global health body aims to reduce more than 40% new cases by 2050 through vaccination, screening and treatment

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 17 November 2020

Vaccination, screening and treatment can reduce new cases of cervical cancer by more than 40 per cent and five million related deaths by 2050.

These were the projections of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, launched November 17, 2020 on the close of the 73rd World Health Assembly.

Cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cancer among women globally. The fight against the cancer, however, has become challenging in the backdrop of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has eliminated focus from other diseases and interrupted vaccination, screening and treatment services.

The programme aims to complete the following targets by 2030 globally:

  • 90 per cent girls fully vaccinated with the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine by 15 years of age
  • 70 per cent women screened using a high-performance test by 35 years and again by 45 years
  • 90 per cent of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (90 per cent of women with pre-cancer treated and 90 per cent of women with invasive cancer managed).

Another highlight of the strategy is to stress on investing in interventions to meet these targets that can generate substantial economic and societal returns. WHO estimates that $ 3.20 will be returned to the economy for every dollar invested through 2050 and beyond if women’s workforce participation increased.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

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.

The annual number of new cases of cervical cancer are expected to increase to 700,000 from 570,000 between 2018 and 2030; the annual number of deaths is projected to rise to 400,000 from 311,000.    

“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 Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela.

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

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