A recent article published by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that of the 342,000 women estimated to die from cervical cancer every year, most are from the poorest countries in the world. Despite the successes of cervical cancer screening programs in first world countries, disparities in access to medical services, including early detection screening, remains very limited in those countries we still class as ‘developing’.
As we know, screening programs are one of the most effective methods of early cancer detection. In the case of cervical cancer, routine screening in the UK takes place on average every three years and is offered to people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64. The current cervical screening technique requires a swab of cervical tissue. This is then examined for signs of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is responsible for causing abnormal cells on the cervix which could become cancerous. If HPV is detected, the sample will be checked for any abnormal cells. Testing for HPV first has been shown to be a more effective route to diagnosis. However, the process is still lengthy and costly.
Lack of cancer screening services costs lives
Unsurprisingly, many developing countries simply don’t have the resources needed to launch effective screening campaigns. Instead, further investigation and treatment is only undertaken once symptoms have caused the affected person to seek professional help. Since many symptoms of cervical cancer develop very slowly, this means that there are many people living with cervical cancer who are unaware of their condition. Statistics for early detection are positive with around 95% of people who have cervical cancer detected at stage one will survive their cancer for 5 years or more following treatment. However, this drops to just 15% if diagnosed at stage 4. Early detection saves lives.
This week, the WHO and the Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) have launched new guidelines to help countries make faster progress on the screening and treatment of cervical cancer. Their strategy calls for 70% of women globally to be screened regularly for cervical cancer with a high-performance test. They believe that alongside the vaccination of girls against HPV, this global strategy could prevent more than 62 million deaths from cervical cancer in the next century.
Dr Princess Nono Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Strategic Programmatic Priorities: Cervical Cancer Elimination, has said; “Effective and accessible cervical screening and treatment programmes in every country are non-negotiable if we are going to end the unimaginable suffering caused by cervical cancer”.
What can we do to make cancer screening more accessible?
We believe that achieving this goal could be made easier and more cost effective by utilising some of the newer screening technologies, including our own early cancer detection blood test – PanTum Detect. Our test is the result of more than two decades of international research and development, and is a simple, cost effective way to provide cancer diagnosis at the earliest stage, when it is most likely to have a positive outcome for the patient. Better still, PanTum Detect is the first universal cancer detection blood test with a CE certification awarded in 2017 on the basis of performance data that includes 97.50% sensitivity and 99.05% specificity.
The blood draw technique is extremely simple and affordable, making it much more accessible to countries with limited resources where it could truly make a difference to the diagnostic process and patient outcomes. Not only can PanTum Detect be an effective test for identifying cancer in patients with symptoms, but it can also be an invaluable screening tool.
Although conventional screening methods are successful, innovation in early detection is continuing to produce new and effective alternatives that could help ensure that cancer screening is made available to everyone on a global scale.