Launching Cervical Cancer Elimination

Photo Credit: WHO

Cervical cancer kills more than 300,000 women every year – equating to a death every two minutes. Yet, these deaths are not inevitable. We know how to combat this disease. Through effective population-based prevention measures, including widespread deployment of HPV vaccine and robust screening programs to detect and treat early disease, we will save lives. Urgent action – in the form of political will and resource mobilization – is needed to scale up the implementation of these proven cost-effective measures.

In 2018, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), called for a series of consultative sessions to examine cervical cancer elimination strategies. After multiple independent models determined that that eliminating the disease was indeed feasible through targeted interventions, the WHO collaborated with researchers, clinicians, and public health experts to design and validate a global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem. This strategy sets clear, specific 10-year targets (e.g., ‘90-70-90 targets’) for scaling up three low-cost, effective cervical cancer prevention interventions:

  • Vaccinating 90% of girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) by 15 years of age;
  • Screening 70% of women at ages 35 and 45 for precancerous cervical lesions; and
  • Ensuring that 90% of those women in need receive treatment for cervical disease.

As noted in a Lancet article earlier this year, successfully deploying these services could prevent more than 6o million deaths and avert over 7o million new cervical cancer cases in the coming decades.

Thankfully, today the world is tangibly closer to the goal of political mobilization. In August 2020, the WHO’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer was ratified by member states during the 73rd World Health Assembly meeting, held virtually this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The WHO has announced that they will formally launch this ambitious Elimination Agenda on November 17th. TogetHER is thrilled to join WHO and our partners to celebrate the world’s clear intention to eliminate cervical cancer, a path illuminated by a clear roadmap. You can find more details here.

However, achieving this ambitious vision must be accompanied by clear and precise action. Countries must clearly articulate their strategies via national cancer control plans, with feasible national targets, and budgeted line items. Global advocates, including TogetHER, will continue to raise awareness and resources for the Elimination Agenda. Clinicians and community health workers must be regularly trained and capable of managing increased patient volumes to accommodate national targets, while balancing the demands of COVID-19 and meeting the essential health needs of their clients. Most importantly, girls and women must be aware of their options for vaccination, screening and treatment and determine how they can access these services in a way that keeps them safe and healthy during COVID-19.

Now that we have an endorsed Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, let’s celebrate this milestone, and let’s each do our part to bring the world one step closer to ending this disease!