Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide suffer from cervical cancer, a disease that has a high mortality rate. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) hopes that we can eradicate this form of cancer within the next 100 years. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, 570,000 cervical cancer cases were estimated globally, according to the World Health Organization.
Also, this form of cancer has a high mortality rate, especially in the least developed and low-income countries. Nevertheless, if the right preventive measures are applied, it could definitely lower the rate.
Additionally, there are two separate studies published in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, which explain that cervical cancer could become just a bad memory in the next century.
The two studies were conducted by researchers associated with The WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Modelling Consortium, highlighting the measures that they advise other countries to apply in order to prevent cervical cancer.
The consortium was co-led by Prof. Marc Brisson from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine in Québec, Canada. One of the studies explains that vaccines and screenings are a necessity, the researchers predicting that vaccinating young girls from low-income countries against the human papillomavirus (HPV) could lower the cervical cancer cases by 89.4% in the next 100 years.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a widespread virus, most sexually active people suffer from an HPV infection during their lifetime.
Most of the time, HPV infections run their course, without presenting any side effects on a person’s health. Regardless, there are more severe cases where the virus can cause genital warts and cancer, this being the top factor risk that generates cervical cancer.
Vaccines and screenings are a must
You can avoid the possibility of getting infected, by getting vaccinated against HPV. At the moment, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends children be vaccinated around the age of 11-12. Also, the earliest age that children can receive the vaccination is age 9, while adults can be vaccinated up to the age of 45.
Another important issue highlighted in the first study by Prof. Brisson and his colleagues suggests that if properly vaccinated, the low-income and middle-income countries could prevent an estimated 61 million cases of cervical cancer in the next 100 years.
Additionally, they suggest getting screened for this type of cancer twice in your lifetime to reduce its occurrence by 96.7% while preventing 2.1 million new cases.
Also, they are optimistic that the countries that successfully implement HPV vaccination can achieve full elimination of cervical cancer at some point.
Moreover, “introducing twice-lifetime screening” into the mix could fasten the elimination of cervical cancer by as much as 11–31 years.
“For the first time, we’ve estimated how many cases of cervical cancer could be averted if WHO’s strategy is rolled out and when elimination might occur,” says Prof. Brisson.
“Our results suggest that to eliminate cervical cancer, it will be necessary to achieve both high vaccination coverage and high uptake of screening and treatment, especially in countries with the highest burden of the disease” explains Prof. Marc Brisson.
Call for ‘international commitment’
The second study estimated that in low and middle-income countries that are mostly affected by cervical cancer, the mortality rate will be 13.2 per 100,000 women in 2020.
However, if those countries implement twice-lifetime screening besides delivering appropriate treatment and vaccination, it could reduce the mortality rate by 34.2% by 2030.
This could lead to saving as many as 400,00 lives within 10 years. Even getting people to get scanned once their lifetime could have similar results, they explain.
The researchers also predict that vaccination could lower the mortality rates by 61% by 2070. Mixing better screening and the proper treatment could reduce mortality rates by 89%. Also, 100 years from now, it is expected a reduction in mortality rates by 90%, preventing 45 million deaths.
The researchers have used the results of their two studies to put together a cervical cancer elimination strategy, which they will present at the 73rd World Health Assembly which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in May 2020.
“If the strategy is adopted and applied by member states, cervical cancer could be eliminated in high-income countries by 2040 and across the globe within the next century, which would be a phenomenal victory for women’s health,” argues Prof. Brisson.
“However,” he cautions, “this can only be achieved with considerable international financial and political commitment, in order to scale up prevention and treatment.”