Civil society engagement and governmental cooperation will serve to improve the prevention and control of cancer and the elimination of inequities regarding access to health services. A major commitment to strengthen health policies and financing schemes for the prevention of cancer and comprehensive programs, and the support of society to raise the level of women's empowerment is required.
Leaders in the Americas show political commitment to change the history of women´s cancer
- The First Ladies of Belize and Honduras are mobilizing society in the fight against women's cancer
- The Authorities of Brazil, Jamaica and Peru will present their advances in designing and implementing policies for comprehensive care of women's cancer in a side event during the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations
- PAHO-WHO makes a call to society and governments to work together to improve the prevention and control of cancer and eliminate inequities in access to health services
- Universal health coverage should be included in the agenda for noncommunicable diseases and cancer, and funding for comprehensive programs that address breast and cervical cancer should be secured
This is the message highlighted in "Women and Cancer: A joint commitment to save lives", a side event to the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations, organized this September 25th by PAHO/WHO and the American Cancer Society.
PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne said in a message that universal health coverage can provide the necessary conditions to improve cancer prevention and control and give people equal access to comprehensive and quality services throughout their life course without financial hardship. "No woman should become impoverished as a result of a cancer diagnosis," she said.
The first ladies of Belize and Honduras, and representatives of the governments of Brazil, Jamaica and Peru urged society to mobilize and requested political support for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, particularly cancer in women. Dr Marleen Temmerman, Director of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO and Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society also participated in the event.
Women´s cancers have a devastating personal, social and economic impact on families and societies. Breast and cervical cancers are the most common among women; every year there are 490,000 new cases and 128,000 deaths in the Americas.
Social determinants such as poverty, low education or ethnicity make some populations more vulnerable and lead to a disproportionate burden of cancer on women, even in countries with high income due to inequality of access to health services.
Women´s lack of awareness, fears of cancer and shame with the gynecological examination represent some of the barriers to their participation in screening programs and early detection. Other barriers to achieve greater coverage detection and proper treatment are the limitations and high costs for treatment, as well as limited information and awareness on how to prevent and control these diseases.
To overcome them, Dr. Carissa Etienne called for the mobilization of all sectors of society and support and help countries in five areas:
1. To advocate for women´s cancers to be high in the public health agenda of countries
2. To educate, inform and empower women to seek early preventive health care;
3. To ensure that services are available, affordable and accessible for screening, diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care;
4. To help make HPV vaccines more widely available;
5. To engage in partnerships with all constituencies active in the field of women´s health in order to support and fund the areas I have just mentioned.
In the Americas there are remarkable examples that demonstrate how to improve the prevention and control of cancer. Currently, over 80% of adolescents in the Americas have free access to the HPV vaccine due to the fact 20 countries included the HPV vaccine as part of immunization plans to protect them from developing cervical cancer in the future. All countries have screening services for this type of cancer, and 5 of them have started using HPV testing as a more effective method.
This event commemorated the third anniversary of the High-level United Nations Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases