WHO and partners come together for a Day of Action for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer – Global Problems

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, along with celebrities, First Ladies, cancer survivors and health and community organizations, came together to raise awareness and mobilize efforts, one year after the UN agency launched a major global initiative on cervical cancer elimination.

“We have the tools”

They showed inequalities in access to life-saving tools and treatment, similar to what happens during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also emphasized new successes in prevention and treatment.

“Cervical cancer causes immense suffering, but it is almost completely preventable and, if diagnosed early enough, is one of the most successfully curable cancers.” said Tedros.

“We have the tools to make a history of cervical cancer, but only if we make those tools available to everyone who needs them. Together with our partners in the WHO’s cervical cancer elimination initiative, we aim to do that.”

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and almost all cases are linked to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact.

Differences in access

However, the WHO said women and adolescents in the poorest countries are deprived of clinical examination facilities, HPV vaccines and treatments “that those in rich areas take for granted.” Although risk of the disease increases sixfold for women living with HIV. , many do not have access to vaccination or screening.

Moreover, producers have titled a supply to richer nations. Last year, only 13 percent of girls aged nine to 14 worldwide were inoculated against HPV, while about 80 countries – representing about two-thirds of the global burden of cervical cancer – have yet to introduce vaccination.

As with the pandemic, the inequality in death rates is extreme, with nine out of 10 occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Applause for governments

WHO praised countries that took steps to treat cervical cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other nations have been praised for training health workers with newer, portable devices to thermally remove pre-cancers, a process that uses heat to remove destructive tissues, or to expand use of self-sampling for cervical abnormalities.

This latter process allows women to collect their own foam, which can reduce stigma and provide access to those who live far from health facilities. WHO added that the samples can be run on the same laboratory platforms used to support polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on COVID-19.

Failures during a pandemic

The agency also reported setbacks during the pandemic, as access to examination services fell. A recent survey of 155 countries found 43 percent reported discontinuation to cancer treatment. HPV vaccinations worldwide have also declined, declining from 15 percent in 2019 to 13 percent last year.

“There has been significant progress towards elimination of cervical cancer even during this unprecedented year,” said Princess Nono Simelela, Special Adviser to the Director-General of the WHO on Strategic Priorities, including the Elimination of Cervical Cancer.

“Although we have seen significant advances in new technologies and research, the next critical step is to ensure that these are designed and accessible in low- and middle-income countries, and that the health and rights of women and girls everywhere are prioritized in countries . recovery of COVID-19. ”

Facing the future

WHO has pointed to new successes in the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, such as the pre-qualification of a fourth HPV vaccine, which is expected to increase and diversify vaccination.

New recommendations to guide research on screening technologies based on artificial intelligence have also been published that will help ensure that pre-cancers are detected as early as possible.

The agency has also announced the first designated WHO Collaborating Center for Cervical Cancer Elimination, located at the University of Miami in the United States, which will be important for research and technical assistance.

The Day of Action will be celebrated with a major global event organized by WHO headquarters in Geneva, with performances and remarks by cancer patients and artists such as singer Angélique Kidjo.

About 100 world monuments, including the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, and Niagara Falls in Canada, will be illuminated in a teal – the color of the elimination of cervical cancer – to mark the day.

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