Saving our women and girls
July-September 2017
By: Meg Taylor

The rationale

The decisive factor that has led to the prioritization of cervical cancer at the regional level is the fact that it is entirely preventable. Women and girls do not have to die from the disease. Yet, for Pacific Island countries with available data, incidence rates for cervical cancer are alarming.

Melanesia has been cited by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a subregion with one of the highest incidence rates for cervical cancer (see Figure 1 below). The age standardized incidence rate for cervical cancer in Melanesia is 33.3 cases per 100,000 females per year. Polynesia has an age standardized incidence rate of 11 and for Micronesia it is 8.7. Age standardized mortality rates for Melanesia are 20.7 cases per 100,000 females per year. For Polynesia it is 5.1, and for Micronesia it is 2.7. In a report from the HPV Center, estimates for new cervical cancer cases in Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia were 1,257 for the three subregions. Other studies have reported similar figures. Estimations for 2012 reported that, for Pacific Island countries, the number of mortality cases from cervical cancer could be around 684 or more.

A systematic review of cervical cancer incidence and mortality in the Pacific region highlighted that while the cervical cancer burden is significant for the region, the delivery of preventative programs is insufficient. The study highlighted the availability of cost-effective, evidence-based and feasible primary and secondary cervical cancer prevention and treatment modalities that could be adopted across the region. The systematic review concluded that to address the burden of cervical cancer in the Pacific, a regional approach was necessary with large-scale screening and vaccination.

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