The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) lauded the adoption of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global strategy toward eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem. WHO Member States adopted the strategy alongside other health resolutions as part of the silence procedure launched after the most recent World Health Assembly held virtually in May. The adoption sends a strong signal of worldwide interest in progressing on an essential public health issue—even amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, every 2 minutes, a life is lost to cervical cancer. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in 42 countries and remains the fourth most common cause of cancer among women globally. However, as most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), it can be successfully prevented through HPV vaccination of girls and as well as boys. Cervical screening further allows for the early diagnosis and treatment of precancerous lesions. These measures form the foundation of the Global Strategy’s approach to elimination, along with the prompt referral for treatment and palliative care in cases of invasive cervical cancer.
HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan
Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, President of UICC, commented, “So many women should not be dying from this disease. We have the tools to eliminate cervical cancer within a few generations! Thankfully, WHO’s global strategy should help harness the high degree of political and social commitment necessary to ensure effective access to vaccines and screenings for all women and to overcome…[the] discrimination and stigma that are strong barriers to implementation.”
More on the WHO Global Strategy
The global strategy aims for all Member States to lower the annual incidence of cervical cancer to 4 cases per 100,000 residents. The strategy also sets aspirational goals as well as short-term “90:70:90” targets for 2030: 90% coverage of HPV vaccination of girls (by age 15), 70% coverage of screening with a high-performance HPV test (between age 35 and 45), and 90% treatment of precancerous lesions/management of 90% of invasive cancer cases.
Achieving these objectives will require, in particular, bridging the gap between high-income countries and lower-income countries, who bear the brunt of the burden of this disease. Low- and middle-income countries account for some 90% of cervical cancer deaths, and the global strategy underscores an international commitment to ensure that vaccination, screening, and treatment services are widely established and scaled up.
Cary Adams, MBA, BSc (Hons)
“It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of this global strategy,” said Cary Adams, MBA, BSc (Hons), Chief Executive Officer of UICC. “This is not merely aspirational but a truly realistic goal. For the first time in history, the world could see the elimination not only of a cancer but of a noncommunicable disease. UICC has worked for more than 2 years to support WHO’s efforts to conceive, draft, and present the strategy, and is now eager to continue working with its members on its implementation in their countries.”