Vaccinating 90 per cent of girls by 15 years of age, screening 70 per cent of women by 35 years and treating 90 per cent of women identified with cervical disease. This is what the World Health Organisation (WHO) dreams of for eliminating cervical cancer by 2050.
It is with this dream in focus that the global organisation set out a strategy for avoiding death of an estimated five million women and girls from the disease by 2050.
Noting that eliminating any cancer would have once seemed an impossible dream, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreves stated that cost-effective and evidence based tools are now available to make the dream a reality. The strategy has the backing of member states.
WHO assistant Director General Dr Princess Nothemba Simelela claimed that this was a major milestone in global health as it was the first time that the whole world is agreeing to eliminate the only cancer that can be prevented with a vaccine and the only cancer that can be curable once detected early.
The latest figures show that 5,70,000 women acquired cervical cancer and 3,11,000 died since 2018. The WHO mentioned that the numbers could reach 7,00,000 with 4,00,000 associated deaths by 2030.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. Death rates are three times higher in low and middle-income countries than in high income countries. The disease is caused by two types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection.
Three vaccines already available to combat HPV and several more are in the pipeline. However, the availability is just in richer countries and the world needs to come together to help poorer countries get access to vaccines, Simelela said.
There are sophisticated methods to detect cervical cancer. A new technology based on artificial intelligence can detect the cancer within minutes.