The World Health Organization (WHO) has added a fourth test to its list of prequalified assays for human papillomavirus (HPV). Although the majority of HPV infections resolve on their own, some high-risk varieties can lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening includes testing for HPV infection.
“Increasing screening coverage with a high-performance test is a critical pillar of the cervical cancer elimination strategy.” “By prequalifying these tests, more quality tests can be made available to countries,” says Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases, “and WHO will continue to support countries in reaching higher coverage and higher quality of screening.” This is a significant step toward eradicating cervical cancer.”
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) prequalification (PQ) program for in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) evaluates a variety of tests, including those used in cervical cancer screening to detect high-risk HPV genotypes. The inclusion of another product to the PQ list broadens the choice of high-performance tests available to countries, particularly in cases where governments, UN agencies, or partners rely on the WHO system to help with procurement.
The addition of Roche Molecular Systems Inc.’s cobas HPV assay, which joins QIAGEN GmBH’s careHPV Test, Abbott GmbH’s Abbott RealTime High Risk HPV, and Cepheid AB’s Xpert HPV, brings the total number of listed tests to four.
Following WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s Call to Action in 2018, the World Health Assembly endorsed a landmark resolution calling for the first-ever cancer abolition. Since then, the World Health Organization has been assisting countries through its flagship program to eliminate cervical cancer.
The Global Strategy specifies goals for each of the three strategic pillars. If the targets are met by 2030, countries will be on the road to eliminating cervical cancer. 90% of girls were fully vaccinated against HPV by the age of 15; 70% of women were screened with a high-performance test by the age of 35, and again by the age of 45; 90% of women with pre-cancer were treated, and 90% of women with invasive cancer were managed.
Even in nations where the HPV vaccination is available, screening programs are essential for detecting and treating cervical pre-cancer and cancer, as well as reducing cervical cancer incidence and mortality.
HPV tests outperform other screening procedures, such as pap smears and visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), in identifying more people who require treatment. Because the tests are of greater quality, people who receive a negative result on an HPV test can often wait longer between testing, which benefits both patients and the health system.
Furthermore, certain HPV tests allow a patient to collect her own sample with a simple swab, giving women the option of getting tested without having a health care practitioner do a pelvic exam. Many HPV tests can even be performed on the same equipment as COVID-19 PCR tests and HIV tests, allowing them to be integrated into existing laboratory systems. Such technologies can help public health programs meet the 70% screening objective by lowering obstacles to services.
More About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is one of the most common types of cancer affecting women worldwide, but it is also highly preventable and treatable when detected early.
Causes: The primary cause of cervical cancer is persistent infection with high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. Not all women with HPV will develop cervical cancer, but it increases the risk significantly. Other factors that can contribute to the development of cervical cancer include smoking, a weakened immune system, long-term use of birth control pills, multiple sexual partners, and a history of sexually transmitted infections.
Symptoms: In the early stages, cervical cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms. As the cancer progresses, however, some common symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding (between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause), increased vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse, and urinary problems.
Prevention: Cervical cancer can be prevented through regular screening and vaccination against HPV. Screening tests such as the Pap smear and HPV DNA test can detect precancerous or early-stage cervical cancer, allowing for early intervention. The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls before they become sexually active, as it can protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
Treatment: The treatment options for cervical cancer depend on the stage and extent of the disease. The primary treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery may involve removing the cancerous cells, the cervix, or the uterus in more advanced cases. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells, while chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used.
It’s important for women to maintain regular gynecological check-ups and discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider.
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