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Commonwealth leads global movement on cancer prevention

16 November 2020

The Commonwealth will lead a global movement this week aimed at urging countries to make an ambitious plan to eliminate the most preventable cancers.

Renowned cancer researchers, specialists, practitioners, leaders and activists are joining forces with the organisation as part of London Global Cancer Week, from 15 to 20 November, to highlight the stalled progress in fighting the disease.

They are calling for a ‘game-changing’ response to reducing the number of cancer cases in the Commonwealth, which are above the global average.

In 2018, when the Secretariat collated data on the disease, cancer rates in the Commonwealth were found to have risen by 35 per cent in the last 10 years. A new case was reported in the Commonwealth every 10 seconds and a patient died every 18 seconds.

The data predicts a further 35 per cent rise in cancer cases across the membership by 2030 unless action is taken.

London Global Cancer Week

During this week, the Secretariat will host a series of events designed to renew the fight and align interventions against the most common, preventable and curable cancers, mainly cervical cancer.

Scientific evidence finds cervical cancer cases are 93 per cent preventable. About 13 women die every hour in the Commonwealth from the disease due to lack of access to vaccines and treatments. In 2018, nearly 90 per cent of all deaths worldwide occurred in low and middle-income countries.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “We have been analysing the problem of cervical cancer in our member countries and have been proposing an effective solution to defeat this deadly disease. The solution is possible and simple: vaccination plus screening and treatment.

“In 2018, Commonwealth health ministers had committed to working together to ensure all nine-to-13-year-old girls are vaccinated by 2025 to prevent them from developing high-risk cancers such as cervical cancer. COVID-19 has made this aspiration a challenge. The task is much harder today.

“With the pandemic seizing the world’s attention, leaving countries with limited resources to make tough choices, we must remain steadfast to delivering on this commitment while pledging to accelerate efforts to bring treatment within every citizen’s reach.

“We want London Global Cancer Week to serve as a watershed moment against cervical cancer, enabling the Commonwealth to take a leading role in saving lives, reducing hospital burden and ultimately eradicating this preventable and treatable disease for good.”

Exploring solutions

These efforts would bring down the 64 per cent increase in cervical cancer deaths in the Commonwealth by 2030, which is projected with the current trajectory.

The Commonwealth events will offer a dedicated space to review the status of cervical cancer in member countries, tackle the impact of emerging issues such as coronavirus, and explore tailored solutions to accelerate prevention efforts.

The Secretariat will also showcase its ongoing initiatives, which include an online database for procuring a vaccine, a cancer research body, a harmonised policy to regulate medicine and universal health coverage to guarantee cervical cancer treatment.

The recommendations from the week-long activities will contribute to the policy proposals for the 2021 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.

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