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WHO Launches New Strategy to Eliminate Cervical Cancer

WHO Launches New Strategy to Eliminate Cervical Cancer

Thursday, 19 November, 2020 - 06:45
An illustration picture shows a Gardasil anti-cervical cancer vaccine box displayed at a pharmacy in Strasbourg. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The World Health Organization has launched a strategy to rid the world of cervical cancer, stressing that broad use of vaccines, new tests and treatments could save five million lives by 2050, AFP reported.

"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 chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

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. Without taking additional action, 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, WHO warned.

"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," explained Ghebreyesus.

During the WHO's main annual meeting last week, all 194 member countries agreed to a plan towards eliminating the cancer. "This is a huge milestone," WHO Assistant Director-General Princess Nothemba Simelela told a virtual press briefing.

"For the first time the world has agreed to eliminate the only cancer we can prevent with a vaccine, and the only cancer which is curable if detected early. The huge burden of mortality related to cervical cancer is a consequence of decades of neglect by the global health community," she said.

Most high-income countries have introduced the three required tools to fight cervical cancer: wide-spread vaccination, testing, and treatment, but access has remained far more difficult elsewhere, in part due to the high cost of vaccine doses.

The strategy announced Tuesday targets that at least 90 percent of girls to be fully vaccinated against HPV before they turn 15. It also calls for at least 70 percent of women to be tested for cervical cancer by the time they are 35 and again by 45, and for at least 90 percent of women diagnosed with the disease to receive treatment.

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