Jan 21, 2021
This Cervical Cancer Prevention Week we’re going to talk about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and its role in eliminating cervical cancer.
2020 was the year of vaccines. We’ve seen what can be done when the most talented people in the world work together quickly to find solutions – our CEO Gary Hughes talks about this here.
The clinical trials industry moved fast to adapt to the new environment, adopting new technology at speed. It’s so exciting to see what humanity can do when time is of the essence and in our opinion, this bodes well for the future of drug development – and especially vaccines.
Cervical cancer is a devastating disease – with around 3,200 new cervical cancer cases in the UK every year – that’s more than eight a day. Across the world, an estimated 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018 and about 311,000 died with the disease.
The good news is that as long as cervical cancer is caught early and managed effectively it can be successfully treated.
Last November, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global initiative to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer. In total 194 countries at the World Health Assembly pledged to take part. The plan is to do this through three steps – vaccination, screening and treatment.
Here are the goals for 2030:
What many people don’t realize is that 99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to infection with the high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV). Most HPV infections clear up quickly with no symptoms, but ongoing infection can cause cervical cancer.
In 2008, a new generation of women benefited from the introduction of the HPV vaccination program in the UK.
UK research commissioned by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust projected incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in England through 2040, and factoring in changes to the vaccination and screening programs, shows that incidence plummeted among women aged 25 to 29 years old by 2040. This means that the impact among this generation will be practically removed.
However, accessibility to the vaccine and screening must be improved for women who didn’t benefit from the UK’s vaccination program. The same Trust research showed that cervical cancer incidence over the next 20 years will be dominated by women born before 1991, with incidence among those 50 to 54 increasing by 50%.
Education programs can also help combat misinformation. For example, concerns about side effects from the vaccine can impact the uptake, so it is important to help people understand that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective.
And the vaccine doesn’t offer complete protection, which is why screening has such a vital role to play in preventing cervical cancer. Find out more this Cervical Cancer Prevention Week about Jo’s Trust’s #SmearForSmear campaign.
Cervical cancer is on track to become a disease of the past by 2030, and we will hopefully see many more initiatives by international bodies to help fight other diseases.