Burden of cervical cancer robs countries of their GDP wealth with premature death of women

Cervical Cancer awareness. File image

Cervical Cancer awareness. File image

Published Jan 28, 2024

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Cape Town - The World Health Organisation said that the burden of Cervical Cancer in women has an economic effect on countries’ GDP (Growth Domestic Product) performance with a 0.5 to 2% loss due to premature deaths.

They said 19 of top 20 countries in the world who have the concerns and burden of cervical cancer are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Medical Experts on the panel during a media briefing on cervical cancer this week, said in 2020 there were 604 127 cases, 341 831 deaths globally and in Africa, there were 110 755 cases and 72 705 deaths.

They called on the mass media and government to create awareness, stating that “no women had to die because of cervical cancer” as there are screenings and the HPV Human papillomavirus vaccine which were available.

Dr Dille Issimouha, an oncologist gynaecologist and a technical officer for cancer control, explained that women living with HIV were six times more at risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

She explained that a lack of resources and education was a big concern.

“Screening invites people without symptoms to get tested. Early diagnosis aims to detect the disease as early as possible,” she said.

Dr Sharon Kapambwe, a physician who specialises in cervical cancer said 90% of girls are expected to be fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15 and that 70% of women to be screened with a high performance test by 35 years of age and again at 45 years of age by the year 2030.

“To date in 2024, there was a 25% of cervical cancer screening coverage using a high performance rate between the ages of 30 and 49.”

She added by the year 2030, we can prevent 65 million cases of cervical cancer and avert 42 million deaths over a century.

“What we need to understand is that if we lose a women to cancer, we have a generation who is affected. There is a GDP loss in countries.

“It affects the economy because women are dying prematurely and in the reproductive age.”

She said vaccine hesitancy and myths was one of the main reasons why women are not accessing health care.

Professor Charles Shey Wiysonge, former Senior Director at the South African Medical Research Council, focuses on vaccine hesitancy and is also affiliated with the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

“As of the end of 2022, only 23 percent of girls from age 9 to 15 years of age in our region received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine,” he said.

“We aim and we hope to reach 90% by 2030.

“By the end of 2024, we hope that at least 20 countries will have 90% of coverage because as of the end of 2022, there were only five countries, so we have a lot of work to do.

“For this to be achieved it will require political support, an organised health system, effective vaccine strategy, mass media communication, community engagement, community leaders and workers and to face vaccine hesitancy.”

Karen Nakawala, a Zambian Radio Broadcaster, who is a cervical cancer survivor and advocates to educate women said education was key.

“When I found out, I had been filming a show and it was only in the second week of treatment that I told my colleague and she began to cry,” she said.

“I was thinking what will my family think of me.

“We have these myths and that is when I decides to add seminars and conferences and began researching and starting a movement on Facebook because cervical cancer can be treated.“

Weekend Argus