Cervical cancer is responsible for more than 270,000 deaths around the world every year with the vast majority of cases taking place in the developing world. By and large, this cancer is a preventable disease and the World Health Organization has released new guidelines in hopes of dropping the infection rate and saving lives.
The main elements of the WHO’s plan are: vaccinate 9 to 13-year-old girls with two doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine; use HPV tests to screen for cervical cancer; and establish better communication between patients, doctors, and other professionals.
Girls in more than 55 countries are being protected by measures like the HPV vaccine, including a growing number of women in low and middle income countries who are now gaining access to the vaccination. According to the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control, receiving the vaccination is the best way to prevent HPV and its related complications. This does not discount the need for screening, however, which should still be done at least once every five to ten years.
Screening at five to ten year intervals serves a dual purpose: it saves money in developed and developing nations by providing a good timetable of care, and it helps check for longer term HPV strains that can persist and may cause cancer 10-20 years after exposure.
The WHO’s new focus, outlined in what is being called the ‘Pink Book’, is equal parts preventative measures like screening and vaccination as well as outreach and community mobilization to help ensure that those in need of treatment will know what they need to do and then follow through with their recommended care to avoid further complications and stigmas that could happen when dealing with a sexually transmitted disease.
While the WHO’s focus is on women, HPV vaccination and prevention is also important for men. Although only women are susceptible to cervical cancers, both sexes can contract HPV, and both have equal odds of having HPV-related anal, throat, head, and neck cancers. For this reason, the CDC has suggested that all individuals receive an HPV vaccination while still in adolescence.
As of now, the WHO has yet to release any androgynous or male-centered HPV guidelines.
To see the ‘Pink Book’ follow this link.
For more information on HPV and HPV vaccination see Passport Health’s page on the topic.