Cervical cancer 4th most common among women, policymakers should urgently move to eliminate: WHO

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New Delhi, Nov 17, 2022, IANS

The World Health Organization and its member states in the South-East Asia Region and across the world marked the second Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action on Thursday.

The cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women with an estimated 604,000 new cases and 342,000 deaths in 2020, of which the South East Region accounted for 32 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

"Vaccination of girls against human papillomavirus (HPV), screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions, and improved access to diagnosis and treatment of invasive cancers are critical, cost-effective measures that policy makers should urgently apply to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem," WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia said on the occasion.

Dr Singh said that the countries of the region continue to make steady and sustained progress against cervical cancer, in line with the Region's Flagship Priority on preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases, as well as the 2021 Regional Implementation Framework on eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem.

"Five Member States - Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand - have introduced nation-wide HPV vaccination, which Bangladesh, India and Timor-Leste will soon also introduce. HPV vaccination has been introduced in several provinces of Indonesia, protecting tens of millions of girls," Dr Singh said.

The gaps and challenges nevertheless persist, which if unaddressed, will prevent the Region from achieving the global 90-70-90 targets: that is, by 2030, ensure that 90 per cent of girls are fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine; that 70 per cent of women are screened using a high-performance test by 35 years of age, and again by 45 years of age; that 90 per cent of women identified with cervical disease or pre-cancer are treated; and that 90 per cent of women with invasive cancer are effectively managed, said South East Director.

Dr Singh said that WHO has called for action in several key areas to achieve the elimination target of four or less cases per 100,000 women.