Cervical cancer elimination

 

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system and is located in the lower part of the womb, forming the opening from the womb to the vagina.[1]  

Cervical cancer ranks 4th of all cancers and currently a life is lost every 2 minutes to this disease. Importantly, it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in 42 countries.[2]

In 2020, the global mortality statistics increased to over 340 000 women and these are likely to continue to grow, particularly in underprivileged and vulnerable communities. Current data suggests that 90% of all cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, due largely to poor access to screening and early detection and treatment of both pre-cancers and cancer. [3]

 

Diagram_showing_stage_1B_cervical_cancer_CRUK_203.svg_.png

Diagram showing stage 1B cervical cancer
Author: Cancer Research UK​ - CC BY-SA 4.0

What causes cervical cancer?

Most cervical cancers are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV is a group of viruses that are extremely common worldwide. There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 14 are cancer-causing (also known as high risk types). Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions. There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and oropharynx.[4]

 

Prevention, detection & treatment

Can Cervical cancer be prevented?

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and successfully treatable forms of cancer, if it is detected and diagnosed early and managed effectively:

  1. Vaccinations: HPV vaccines protect against the common cancer-causing types of human papilloma virus and can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. 
  2. Screening: Testing for HPV-infection in women aged 30-49 followed by the examination of the cervix for pre-cancers permits local treatment and is a second opportunity to prevent cervical cancer.  

 

Cervical cancer is often curable if detected early

Like many cancers, the earlier cervical cancer is detected, the higher the chances are of survival. For example, in the US, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer at an advanced stage is 15%, compared with 93% if diagnosed when the cancer has not spread*. This holds true in lower income settings as well. In India, a study among rural women with cervical cancer found the five-year survival rate to be 9% when diagnosed at Stage IV, which soars to 78% when diagnosed earlier at Stage I.

 

Cervical cancer treatment

Early stage cervical cancer: When detected and diagnosed early, cervical cancer is usually treated through surgery, with radiotherapy or a combination of both. 

Advanced cervical cancer:  When cervical cancer has developed further, radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy is often used to treat the cancer. 
In some cases, treatments can have lasting impact, including removal of the womb, premature menopause and infertility.

Palliating cervical cancer: When cervical cancer cannot be cured, there are ways to slow its progression, relieve pain and extend and improve quality of life. 

Source:  National Health Service: Cervical Cancer Treatment

 

Two articles published in The Lancet show that 62 million women's lives could be saved by 2120 if the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed measures for cervical cancer elimination are implemented.

This analysis in 78 low-income and lower-middle-income countries describes the mortality impact of achieving WHO cervical cancer elimination targets.

 

What does Elimination mean?

In 2020, the World Health Organization approved a strategy aimed at eliminating cervical cancer worldwide within generations. The Global Strategy identifies the following threshold: cervical cancer would no longer be considered to be a public health problem when all countries reach an annual incidence rate of 4 cases per 100,000 women or less. This should happen within the lifetime of today’s young girls. [5]

The elimination initiative suggests a three-pillar approach:

No one intervention alone will be enough. The strategy requires accelerated action in prevention, screening and cancer management.  

  1. HPV vaccination 
  2. screening and early treatment of pre-cancerous lesions and
  3. prompt referral for treatment and palliative care of invasive cervical cancer.  
Three part approach of the global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

WHO estimates that achieving and sustaining the 90:70:90 targets will avert 74 million new cases of cervical cancer and 62 million deaths in 78 low- and middle-income countries in the coming decades. 

 

UICC's action on Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer content hub
News and blogs
Caregiver explaining cervical cancer secondary prevention to a woman
3 December 2021
News

Scaling up secondary cervical cancer prevention in the Philippines

The SUCCESS project builds upon a strong foundation of national commitment to cancer control in the Philippines, facilitating the introduction of an accessible, affordable, and achievable screening and early treatment model for cervical cancer.

Staff of the Liga Nacional Contra el Cáncer Guatemala holding up number signs to spell out WHO's 2030 targets for cervical cancer elimination: 90, 70, 90
30 November 2021
News

Bringing cervical cancer prevention to remote populations in Guatemala

The SUCCESS project and work by civil society in Guatemala together with government authorities are making great strides towards achieving the targets laid out in WHO's Global Strategy to eliminate cervical cancer. 

Close up of a woman looking down at her smiling daughter
17 November 2021
News

UICC engaged in supporting cervical cancer elimination in LMICs

While COVID-19 has slowed the progress of actions towards eliminating cervical cancer, UICC is committed to supporting its members and working with partners to realise the promise of the Global Strategy launched last year.

Women receiving a vaccine shot
16 November 2021
Blog

Cervical cancer elimination: the ambition of a project focusing on secondary prevention

Dr Lisa Huang, Project Director for the SUCCESS project at Expertise France, writes about how SUCCESS is deploying innovative and sustainable solutions in four target countries to reduce the unnecessary burden of cervical cancer.

Members of Coalition of Organisation Against Cancer in Côte d’Ivoire (COLCC) giving a presentation on cervical cancer
11 November 2021
News

Côte d’Ivoire: Raising awareness about cervical cancer

A coalition of 14 NGOs in Côte d'Ivoire is fighting the stigma surrounding cervical cancer and raising awareness about the need for vaccination and screening.

Staff photo of COBUCAN, the Burkinabe Coalition Against Cancer
3 November 2021
News

Accelerating cervical cancer elimination in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has taken huge strides in adhering to its commitment to eliminating cervical cancer, including as part of the Unitaid-funded SUCCESS project focusing on secondary prevention.

Last update: 
Wednesday 10 November 2021
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