- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018.
- In 2020, the number of breast cancer cases amounted to more than 2 million, meaning breast cancer is predicted to be the most commonly occurring cancer this year.
- The UfM-supported project ‘Women’s Right to Health’ has compared different strategies for early cervical cancer screening, highlighting the importance of increasing the skills of health professionals and the general awareness of the population.
29 January 2021. Around 10 million people die each year from cancer. According to the Global Cancer Observatory, this year, breast cancer has been estimated to be the most commonly occurring cancer in general, with over 2 million new cases in 2020. When we look at the Euro-Mediterranean region, of the top 25 countries with the highest rates of breast cancer in 2018, 15 are UfM Member States.
While survival rates of many types of cancers are improving in some countries, others still face systemic barriers to offer their citizens early detection and quality treatment. Many health systems in low- and middle-income countries are ill-equipped, lacking diagnosis and treatment services. Cancer-related inequalities are also linked to cancer risk factors, such as poor nutrition or workplace hazards. Evidence shows that between 30% to 50% of cancer cases could be prevented by reducing exposure to cancer risk factors such as diet, nutrition or physical activity.
Cancer undermines a nation’s development, and remains a major barrier to sustainable development, particularly in low- to-middle income countries. UfM Deputy Secretary General for Social Affairs, Marisa Farrugia, said: “On World Cancer Day we must all join forces and make our voices heard to take decisive action on cancer, fighting for quality resources and services for all. Through its regional projects, political fora, and dialogue platforms, the UfM will continue with determination to battle on for a more equal and inclusive region, putting life and the region’s livelihoods at the center of its actions”.
While still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, this World Cancer Day serves as a reminder that cancer diagnosis and treatment should be equally accessible to all, irrespective of our income, age, gender or nationality.
The experience of the Women’s Right to Health (WoRTH) project in Albania, Montenegro and Morocco
The goal of closing the equity gap has been at the core of the UfM’s mission since its inception. Responding to this challenge, and in line with the WHO’s mandate to increase political commitment for cancer prevention and control, both organisations have supported the implementation of the ‘Women’s Right to Health’ (WoRTH) project.
This initiative, implemented since 2016 by the National Health System Reference Centre for Epidemiology and Prevention of Cancer in Piedmont (CPO), aims to reduce the incidence and mortality of women’s malignancies in Albania, Montenegro and Morocco through the design and implementation of a comprehensive cancer control strategy. More particularly, the project has focused on assessing the efficacy and sustainability of a cervical cancer early detection programme through the DNA Human Papilloma Virus test (HPV test) in the three participating countries.
These countries have considerably different profiles in terms of their demographic trends, socio-economic development and health systems, therefore the stage of implementation of cervical cancer screening also varies significantly. Each country developed a specific protocol to compare different recruitment strategies for cervical cancer screening. The experience suggests that, although face-to-face contact is the most effective, addressing the issue via telephone calls is also a valid detection method, especially in view of increasingly widespread access to mobile phones. Out of the almost 6000 women contacted via phone calls or face-to-face contacts, more than 3300 were tested. The results also show the need to create a single computerised information registry system and point to the importance of improving communication strategies and increasing the knowledge and skills of health professionals and the general awareness of the population.
The project’s aim is fully in line with the Global Strategy towards the Elimination of Cervical Cancer as a Public Health Problem adopted in 2020 from the World Health Organization (WHO): ending with cervical cancer is among the 10 global health issues to track in 2021
A potential widening of the project’s scope and geographical coverage is under assessment in the framework of the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the UfM and the WHO.