Cervical cancer is caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Risk factors associated with cervical cancer include; early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, exposure to other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and smoking among others. The disease can be prevented through vaccination for girls aged 9 to 14 years, the ages at which the vaccine has the highest immune response; routine cervical cancer screening for all women aged 30–49 years and early treatment for those with pre-cancerous lesions as recommended by WHO.
Cervical Cancer - Gynecology and Obstetrics - MSD Manual Professional Edition | MSD Manual
Some early signs of cervical cancer include; Blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods, menstrual bleeding is longer and heavier than usual, bleeding after intercourse, douching or a pelvic examination, increased vaginal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, bleeding after menopause and unexplained persistent pelvic and/or back pain. When detected at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer is 92%. About 45% of women with cervical cancer are diagnosed at an early stage. If cervical cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 56%.
While stressing that bringing cervical cancer to an end is now a priority for the WHO, it’s Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and curable forms of cancers, through vaccination, early detection and treatment. “With rates for cervical cancer up to six times higher in the African region than in North America, we can see that the disease is one of inequity. We expect the new global strategy to close this gap’’, Dr Moeti stated.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti | WHO | Regional Office for Africa
The WHO Member States, academia, civil society and UN partners had at a consultation, held from 13-15 May and organized by the WHO Regional Office in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo reviewed the draft Global Strategy towards Cervical Cancer Elimination. The regional perspective was provided to the draft strategy, and it was agreed that a framework for accelerating and implementing the new global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in the African region is paramount.
Participants agreed with the suggested elimination threshold of fewer than four cases per 100 000 people per year as well as to the 90/70/90 targets. These targets refer to 90% of women fully vaccinated by the age of 15, 70 % of women screened with a high-precision test by 35 years of age and 90% of women with cervical disease receiving appropriate treatment and care.
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“In many parts of Africa, cervical cancer is not identified or treated until it has reached an advanced stage due to insufficient access to health care services, effective screening and early treatment. We must ensure every woman has access to screening, and those diagnosed with pre-cancer and early invasive cervical cancer receive affordable, effective, and quality treatment,” said Dr Joseph Caboré, Director for Programme Management, WHO Regional Office for Africa.