The European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH) invites its members, friends and colleagues to join them in celebrating the 8th Annual European Cervical Cancer Prevention Weekraising awareness of this uniquely preventable cancer, the second most common cancer worldwide in women under the age of forty-four.

In the EU, 31,300 women develop and 13,600 die from cervical cancer annually with higher rates in new Member States. On average, there are 175,000 women living with cervical cancer in the European Union at any given time [1]. “In most of Europe, there has been a steady drop in cervical cancer incidence and mortality over the last decade due to regular, organised screening programmes. However, large inequities exist across the EU with women in many low- and middle income countries and in disadvantaged population groups having not yet benefitted from lifesaving prevention,” said Glenis Willmott, Member of the European Parliament, whose support was instrumental in setting up the European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

Unlike many other cancers, cervical cancer is uniquely preventable and in some countries, such as Finland, death from this cancer has been greatly reduced through a long-standing national effort.

Yet, great disparities in mortality rates exist across the EU. “Cervical cancer still kills far too many women in eastern EU countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic countries of Lithuania and Latvia. This disparity is largely due to unequal access to prevention strategies, such as Pap tests, which could detect cell lesions caused by the infection, early, before the cancer has a chance to develop,” stated Peggy Maguire, Director General of the EIWH.

“Sadly, this cancer strikes women in their 30s and 40s at a time when many are bringing up young families, concentrating on their careers and enjoying busy lives. The cancer is a huge personal and emotional burden for women, their children, family and friends, as well as placing considerable medical and economic costs on society. We must all work together to eliminate this preventable cancer and foster equity in access,” warned Hildrun Sundseth, President of the EIWH.

“Today, European women have the unique opportunity to benefit from significant advances in tackling cervical cancer through a two-pronged strategy of organised, population-based screening programmes for the early detection of cervical lesions and of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of adolescent girls, prior to first exposure to the virus. A twin approach of screening and vaccination has the potential to reduce the cervical cancer burden over time,” stressed Maeve Cusack, Board Member of the EIWH and the Screening Promotion Manager at National Cancer Screening Service in Ireland.


Guidance must be provided to the 28 EU Member States and neighbouring countries on how to affordably combine traditional screening programmes with HPV vaccination to best effect. Also, practical assistance should be given to existing coalitions and networks that support prevention and screening of cervical cancer, particularly in CEE and Baltic countries to bring down incidence and mortality rates. Disadvantaged and hard-to-reach women must be targeted by widened screening efforts and increased vaccination coverage in order to conquer this most preventable cancer of women.

“The EIWH calls for an urgent update of the existing European Code against Cancer and the Cervical Cancer Screening Recommendations to reflect current scientific progress in HPV vaccination and prevention. It is important to integrate HPV vaccination and potentially different screening timetables for vaccinated women, as well as involve women’s groups in the process to improve communication and increase uptake of screening and vaccination,” urged Hildrun Sundseth, President of the EIWH.

- STATEMENT (pdf version): European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH) Cervical Cancer Prevention Week | 19-25 January 2014


To know more


Footnotes

[1] Arbyn, Castellsague, Ferlay, et al, Ann Oncol 2011

Last modified on January 24 2014.