Social Innovation Tackling the Global Toll of Cervical Cancer
This is Mary’s story who lives in the U.K. – “I was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer in February 2009. It was a shock but after all the tests, MRI scan, I was told I had a good chance of being cured. I needed Chemo/Radiotherapy treatment and I was scared! I had five weeks of radiotherapy treatment with chemo once a week. The travelling was the worst with travel times an hour and half each way. The treatment made me feel so tired and I still have that fatigue a little now though I am able to do much more than I could before Christmas. My main fear was how I was going to tell my kids, especially my 18 year old son. He only had me. What if I died? Who would take care of him? All these thoughts went through my mind. It is a long road to recovery and you feel like you will never be the same again. I got the all clear in September 2009. I am a Cervical Cancer survivor!”
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers through primary and secondary prevention: prophylactic Human Papillomavirus (HPV) social innovation vaccination and cervical screening. Yet, not everyone is a survivor as the global toll of this cancer will continue to rise if where we live determines whether we live, and this this is the reality for women and girls globally.
In the western world, the cervical cancer threat has been dramatically reduced thanks to widely available screening tests and social innovation vaccines. In developing countries, it is a different story; it is a leading killer of women, often affecting those who support families and are key economic contributors. At the GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations) Alliance Partners Forum in December 2012, GAVI announced a pledge to try to curb the threat of this disease and through its support, by 2020, more than 30 million girls in developing countries could have the opportunity to be immunized against HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer.
The new Cervical Cancer Action Report Card, released at the GAVI conference, states that if current trends continue, by 2030, cervical cancer is expected to kill more than 474,000 women per year. More than 85 per cent of these deaths are expected to be in low and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, this cancer is expected to double. According to the American Cancer Society's Global Cancer Facts & Figures, in Tanzania and other parts of eastern Africa, cervical cancer was the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death. The palliative care services here are poor and these unfortunate women are sentenced to a miserable end of life.
The global health community must invest to save lives and end suffering from this disease that needlessly claims the lives of mothers, sisters and daughters. Now more than ever, there is now an opportunity to prevent, detect and treat cervical cancer, and it is time all women benefited from this knowledge and social innovation.
Photo Credit: Cervical Cancer Action Website