(MENAFN - Editorial) Every year, at least 311,000 women around the world die of cervical cancer, a preventable and treatable disease. Ninety-nine percent of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus - one of the most common viral infections of the reproductive tract. National and global action to provide the HPV vaccine and screenings for cervical cancer would prevent thousands of future cases.
Therefore, government representatives, academics, International organisations and advocates who participated in the Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP) forum yesterday (Thursday) titled ‘Turning the Tide on HPV and Cervical Cancer’, have together affirmed their commitment to improving access to screenings, vaccines and treatment for HPV and cervical cancer in the MENA region, in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recent call for action toward the elimination of cervical cancer.
The forum concluded with FOCP’s announcement of the ‘Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer 3X3’ to boost the national and regional response to take action against cervical cancer.
The declaration has a 3X3 affix due to its integrated three-step approach to collaborative action and commitment. The declaration stipulates:
Cervical cancer will be history if we:
I. Work collaboratively to introduce HPV vaccination to achieve high coverage among young people and vulnerable groups.
II. Strengthen health services to increase women’s access to cervical cancer screening and treatment and ensure quality palliative care with financial risk protection; and
III. Empower individuals and communities through health literacy, education and social mobilisation programs.
We commit to:
I. Advocate for regional and national cervical cancer strategies which align with global initiatives;
II. Establish cooperative capacity building efforts to expand countries’ and organisations’ cervical cancer control activities; and
III. Work with partners to develop and implement innovative technologies for screening and pricing policies to stimulate increased vaccination and screening coverage.
A preventable issue
To implement the Sharjah Declaration, FOCP has pledged to work collaboratively to achieve high coverage of the HPV vaccination among young people and vulnerable groups. In the near future, it will also strengthen health services to increase women’s access to cervical cancer screening and treatment and ensure quality palliative care with financial risk protection. Finally, it will empower individuals and communities via health literacy, education and social mobilisation programmes.
Her Excellency Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, FoCP, said: We have pledged our commitment to implementing the Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer 3X3 – in line with the UN Joint Global Programmes on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control. In doing so, we will continually build on collective global efforts to remove the cancer from the list of public health issues within the next generation.
“I call upon all regional government, academic, research and medical bodies and advocates to unite in this commitment by taking all possible actions nationally and regionally to eradicate these conditions. Working collectively using all your resources in coordinated action can result in achieving our goal.”
Stressing on the importance of the region-wide adoption of this declaration, HE Jafar remarked: “Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. Scaling up access to crucial preventive, testing and treatment tools is critical to a comprehensive approach to cervical cancer control. Through the adoption of this declaration and by increasing coordinated action, we will hopefully build a region and world where no more lives are lost because of cervical cancer.”
FoCP has also committed to regional and national cervical cancer strategies that align with global initiatives, establishing cooperative mechanisms between countries and organisations to expand cancer control activities. The civil society organisation will also work with partners to scale up screenings, vaccination, quality treatment and community education to finally turn the tide on HPV and cervical cancer.
Last year, FOCP’s breast cancer awareness initiative, Pink Caravan, launched a permanent mobile mammography clinic to offer a comprehensive package of medical services for women throughout the year. These include clinical breast cancer examination and cervical screening test [Smear], which is the first test to be added to a mobile medical unit globally.
All other stakeholders such as community leaders, scientists and policy leaders will unite to enhance and strengthen the collective response to the twin conditions of HPV and cervical cancer.