Lifesaving cervical cancer guidelines to turn tide on "preventable" deaths

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A child getting human papillomavirus vaccine. WHO/C. McNab

Cervical cancer kills more than 270,000 women a year but a medical strategy's been unveiled that could change that, the UN health agency has said.

Announcing the development Wednesday, World Health Organization (WHO) doctors say their new guidelines could be "the difference between life and death for girls and women worldwide".

One of the new recommendations is the use of new screening kits for middle and low-income countries.

It's in these countries that 85 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer happen, according to WHO.

The agency's guidelines also call for a speedier vaccination programme for 9 to 13 year-old girls to prevent the cancer-causing human papillomavirus in the first place.

WHO's Dr Nathalie Broutet said the cancer is one of the leading killers among women but also one of the most preventable.

She added that the vaccine has been available for four years and is showing its worth already:

"In countries like Australia that started the introduction of vaccines more than four years ago we already see a drastic impact on the pre-cancer lesions, so with the very impressive decrease in the incidence of pre-cancer lesions but also genital warts which are also linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection… so we expect that the more countries will introduce these vaccines and principally (in) low and middle income countries the impact will be really drastic in the next few years."  (28″)

Dr Broutet added that screening was still essential since the vaccine does not provide total coverage against all the cancer-causing virus strains.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’30″


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