A woman is killed by cervical cancer every two minutes around the world.
The World Health Organisation has implemented plans to eradicate cervical cancer around the world – with public health professionals celebrating the move as an “unprecedented milestone”.
A strategy outlined by the UN agency involves vaccinating nine in ten girls by the age of 15 and screening seven in 10 women by the age of 35 and then again by the time they turn 45.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer for women in 42 countries, while a woman is killed by cervical cancer every two minutes around the world.
Dr Princess Nothemba Simelela, the assistant director general of the World Health Organisation, said:“This is a big milestone in global health because 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.“We have an opportunity, as the global health community, to end the suffering from this cancer.”
The vast majority of cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) – an infection that around eight in 10 people in the UK will contract but can now be vaccinated against.
The HPV vaccine is now provided to children across the UK and expected to save many lives.
The newly unveiled plans, which were supported by World Health Organisation member states last week, involve treating 90 per cent of women who have cervical cancer.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said: “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”.
Some 90 per cent of all cervical cancer deaths take place in low and middle-income nations. The new strategy hopes to tackle this by rolling out vaccines, screening and treatment more widely.Dr Cary Adams, chief executive of the Union for International Cancer Control, the largest global organisation which fights cancer, said: “It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of this global strategy. 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 non-communicable disease.”
Cervical screening, commonly referred to as a smear test, helps to pick up early signs of cell changes in the cervix that can turn into cancer.