PAHO launches campaign to prevent cervical cancer

Sunday, December 02, 2018

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THE Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) last week launched a communication campaign to prevent cervical cancer, which kills more than 34,000 women each year in the Americas and is among the leading causes of cancer death in women in 23 countries of the region.

'It is Time to End Cervical Cancer' is a communication campaign designed to inform health providers and empower women and girls with health information on how to prevent this disease, which is diagnosed in some 72,000 women each year, a release from PAHO said.

With the slogan, “Don't let cervical cancer stop you”, the campaign provides materials (poster/video), information, and stories about the vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV) — the cause of cervical cancer — and about cervical cancer screening methods, to encourage women to have regular examinations for the early detection of precancerous lesions. The ultimate goal, the release said, is to mobilise health providers, women and girls to seek preventive care, and to stop cervical cancer from keeping women from reaching their maximum potential in life.

“By being informed about cervical cancer and how to prevent it, we can help to ensure that women lead healthy, productive lives,” observed Dr Anselm Hennis, director of the PAHO Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. “We have the tools to prevent cervical cancer from being a threat to the health and well-being of women, their families, and communities.”

Cervical cancer can be prevented with HPV vaccination and with screening. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls ages 9 to 14 and is available in 35 countries and territories of the region. However in the majority of countries, the HPV vaccine coverage rate with the recommended two doses has not yet reached 80 per cent of the target population, the release said.

In addition to providing information about cervical cancer vaccination, the campaign also aims to raise awareness about cervical cancer screening, which is recommended primarily for women aged 30 to 49 years. An estimated 32 million women in the region are eligible for cervical cancer screening, which, when coupled with treatment, can save lives.

The web-based campaign has a section for health professionals that contains guides, fact sheets, answers to frequently asked questions, and a free online course, all aimed at building knowledge of the issue and improving HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening.

In September 2018 the ministers of health of the Americas, at the PAHO Directing Council meeting, agreed on a plan to reduce cervical cancer by a third in the region by 2030. To accomplish this, the plan is to strengthen primary prevention through information and education and HPV vaccination, as well as improve cervical cancer screening and treatment of precancerous lesions, and strengthen access to cancer diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

This online and social media campaign is an additional instrument in PAHO's toolkit to help reach the goal of ending cervical cancer, the release said.

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