Each year, more than 300 000 women die of cervical cancer. More than half a million women are diagnosed. Every minute, one woman is diagnosed. Cervical cancer is one of the greatest threats to women's health. Each death is a tragedy, and can be prevented. Most of these women are not diagnosed early enough, and lack access to life-saving treatment. Studies have shown that prevention and early treatment of cervical cancer are also highly cost-effective.
Nine in 10 women who die from cervical cancer are in poor countries. This means some of the most vulnerable women in our world are dying unnecessarily. This is not fair or just. Rising cervical cancer deaths is undermining health gains for women made in maternal health and HIV care. Current disparity in survival from cervical cancer, which varies between 33-77%, is unacceptable and can be minimized.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and curable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. New diagnoses can be reduced in two ways, HPV vaccination and screening of the cervix with follow on treatment of early changes before cancer appears.
Currently, most women diagnosed with cervical cancer are diagnosed with advanced cancers, where opportunity for cure is small. This compounded by lack of access to life-saving treatment in settings where the burden and need is highest.
WHO is accelerating progress. WHO is working to ensure that all girls globally are vaccinated against HPV and that every woman over 30 is screened and treated for pre-cancerous lesions. To achieve that, innovative technologies and strategies are need. WHO is working to improve access to diagnosis and treatment of invasive cancers at their earliest stages and ensure that availability of palliative care for women who need it.
All of these services must be embedded in strong health systems aimed at delivering universal health coverage. High-income countries have shown the way. Now is the time for global elimination.
Urgent action is needed to scale up implementation of proven cost-effective measures towards the elimination of cervical cancer as a global public health problem. These actions include vaccination against human papillomavirus, screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions, early detection and prompt treatment of early invasive cancers and palliative care. This will require political commitment and greater international cooperation and support for equitable access, including strategies for resource mobilization.
- Dr Princess Nono Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents, WHO
In May 2018, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made a global call for action towards the elimination of cervical cancer.
This is in line with the targets of WHO’s General Programme of Work: 1 billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage; 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies; and 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.
We have the tools to achieve global elimination of cervical cancer. We also have the political commitment. Several countries and UN agencies have already joined forces under the UN Joint Global Programme on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control.
The world is doing something, but to succeed, we need everyone on board. From governments and UN agencies to researchers, healthcare professionals and individuals, we all have a role to play. As the manufacturers of life-saving vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, the private sector is also a key partner in this mission.