Cervical Cancer: The Fourth Most Common Cancer Among Women
The WHO will keep working to eliminate cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer among women, by 2030. Strategies linked to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and early detection are essential to achieve this goal. “Together, let us end cervical cancer and save lives,” says Tedros Adhanom, Director General, WHO.
In 2020, 604,000 new cervical cancer cases and 342,000 deaths were reported globally. In Mexico, cervical cancer is the second most diagnosed type of cancer in women and it is linked to one of every 10 deaths among female cancer patients. In 2021, the country saw 1,155 new diagnoses of cervical cancer and 1,059 deaths, reports IMSS.
Poverty has been associated with an increase in the prevalence of cervical cancer. Around 90% of cervical cancer cases reported in 2020 occurred in low and middle-income countries. It has been shown that the poverty index causes mortality to vary by more than 52%, according to IMSS.
In seven years, the WHO expects for 90% of the world’s girls to be fully vaccinated against HPV by age 15. It also expects for 70% of women to be screened using a high-performance test once by age 35 and a second time by age 45. It also aims for 90% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer to receive treatment.
Although the goal is to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the campaign’s progress. During the pandemic, attention was on SARS-CoV-2, leading to the neglect of other health issues. “The different strategies and interventions to reach the goals for 2030 were severely delayed,” says Maribel Almonte, Scientist on Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment, WHO.
The WHO recently said that one dose of the HPV vaccine offers solid protection against cervical cancer. Applying only one dose is expected to help to increase the number of vaccinated girls worldwide and for more girls to get the vaccine before they start their sexual lives, explained Almonte. This is key as most cervical cancer cases are linked to HPV, which is one of the most common infections of the reproductive system.
There are many stigmas surrounding HPV and cervical cancer. It is common for patients to be judged about their decisions regarding their sexual lives or their lack of awareness about screening. Studies have shown that stigma surrounding these diseases prevent women from accessing screening and treatment opportunities. Education is essential to avoid discrimination and to encourage women to feel safe when asking for medical advice. “Cervical cancer is the most treatable form of cancer if it is detected early; there is no reason a woman should die from cervical cancer,” said Teófilo Tijerina, CEO, Hera Diagnostics, to MBN.