85 Percent of Cervical Cancer Cases Occur in Developing Countries
In the Every Woman Every Child Cervical Cancer Event held in New York City, US Deputy Representative Stefanie Amadeo to ECOSOCU underscored the need for strengthened and global efforts to end cervical cancer among women and girls.
The disease is currently the leading cancer killer in many developing countries even though it is known to be preventable and treatable.
According to Ms. Amadeo, 85 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries.
“Cervical cancer should not, and does not have to, be a death sentence.” – Ms. Amadeo.
Still Tools Are Out of Reach for Many Women in Developing Countries
According to Ms. Amadeo, simple, effective, and inexpensive screening tools to diagnose cervical cancer exist; as well as affordable treatment options to reduce the burden of this disease.
“Yet, these tools are out of reach for many women in developing countries.” – Ms. Amadeo
In addition, cervical cancer disproportionately burdens the poor and causes the stigmatization and marginalization of those women who are affected.
What Needs to Be Done
According to Ms. Amadeo, health care systems and women’s health care need to be strengthened.
“We all know that what gets measured gets done.” – Ms. Amadeo
She pointed out that WHO Global Monitoring Framework on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) has indicators related to screening and vaccination – and national leadership should be proactive in measuring incidence, mortality from cancer, number of women screened and number of girls fully vaccinated.
In addition, measurable, actionable goals on cervical cancer should be included in countries’ cancer or NCD plan.
US Addresses Cervical Cancer Through PEPFAR
According to Ms. Amadeo, the U.S. President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, addresses cervical cancer as well as HIV and AIDS.
PEPFAR supports procurement of equipment and supplies for screening and treatment, and supports training, mentoring and clinical oversight. It also provides technical assistance or seconded staff to help Ministries of Health develop and implement national cervical cancer policies, strategies and clinical guidelines and procedures.
In addition, PEPFAR is also an organizing member of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an innovative Public Private Partnership designed to leverage public and private investment into a powerful partnership effort to combat cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
The goals of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon are to reduce deaths from cervical cancer by an estimated 25 percent among women screened and treated through the initiative; to significantly increase access to breast and cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment programs; and to create innovative models that can be scaled up and used globally.
The good thing also is that, since the inception of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon programming in Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania in 2012, nearly 200,000 women have been screened for cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer as a Silent Killer
Worldwide, a woman dies of cervical cancer every two minutes, taking the annual toll to 275,000. The disease is preventable, and yet the second largest killer of women in low and middle income countries, with most women dying in the prime of life. According to the Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card, India tops the chart in cervical cancer deaths with nearly 73,000 women dying every year, representing 26.4% of the global deaths.
Cervical cancer is a silent killer with rarely any early signs or symptoms, making timely diagnosis all the more difficult. While numerous tools exist to prevent cervical cancer, these interventions remain largely inaccessible to the girls and women who need them most. Despite the proven link between the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer, HPV vaccines are not yet widely available and screening rates remain low in much of the world. Lack of awareness and deep seated stigma associated with the disease also pose significant barriers to access.