(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – Cervical cancer is known to be one of the most preventable cancers – as both the rise of Pap screening and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination have made early detection and prevention a life-saver for many.
Now, a new study says that a substantial increase in both screening and vaccination could prevent up to 13.4 million cases of cervical cancer worldwide within 50 years.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, with approximately 570,000 new cases diagnosed in 2018.
Researchers say a significant increase in both cervical screening and HPV vaccination, worldwide, could potentially eliminate cervical cancer as a major public health problem in 82 percent of the world’s countries by the year 2100.
In higher income countries, they believe that it could be nearly eliminated within the next 25-40 years.
In contrast, the study predicts that if current prevention programs are not expanded, as many as 44.4 million cervical cancer cases could be diagnosed over the next 50 years. This uptick in diagnosed cases could result in approximately 15 million deaths in less-developed countries in that time.
Robert DeBernardo, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said all women should be screened for cervical cancer beginning in their early twenties.
“By the time women reach 21, they may start seeing these pre-cancer changes, so, this is a critical time when we can identify this, and treat it,” he said. “If we treat these pre-cancers, then these women are not going to develop cervical cancer.”
Dr. DeBernardo said another important part of cervical cancer prevention includes vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is responsible for most cervical cancers.
He encourages everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, as research shows that within the U.S., HPV vaccination rates are lower than they should be.
“In the United States, our vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus vaccines are sadly low, and this is a disturbing trend, so it’s important for folks to empower themselves and get the vaccination series -.it makes total sense,” said Dr. DeBernardo. “If you were to ask any of my patients who have had significant cervical dysplasia, or even cancer, they would trade that for a vaccine in a heartbeat.”
Complete results of the study can be found in The Lancet.