Increasing global accessibility to high-level treatments for cervical cancers

Gynecol Oncol. 2021 Oct 26;S0090-8258(21)01517-1. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2021.10.073. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Human papillomaviruses (HPV)-related gynecological cancers are a major health care issue, and a leading cause of cancer death in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). In 2020, the World Health Organization launched a program aimed at cervical cancer elimination, by screening and vaccination strategies. Offering the best possible care to women diagnosed with invasive cancer is a complementary objective. Treatment of cervical cancer as per modern standards is complex and multimodal, mainly relying on surgery, external-beam radiotherapy (+/-chemotherapy) and brachytherapy. In parallel with the pivotal role of multidisciplinary discussion, international societies provide guidance to define the most effective and least toxic anti-cancer strategy, homogenize treatment protocols and provide benchmark quality indicators as a basis for accreditation processes. The challenge is to offer the appropriate diagnostic workup and treatment upfront and to avoid non- evidence-based treatment that consumes resources, impairs quality of life (QoL), and compromises oncological outcome. Various strategies may be applied for improving treatment quality: development of surgical mentorship, companion-training programs and international cooperation. The lack of radiotherapy/brachytherapy facilities is a major concern in LMIC. Reinforcing international support in terms of education, training, research and development and technical cooperation with national projects is required to increase access to minimum requirements but also introduce modern techniques, upgrade radiotherapy/brachytherapy services, and expand access to modern systemic treatments. In countries with robust economies, compliance to standards should also be increased. Integrative cancer care and multidisciplinary approaches are needed to tackle the dual challenge of increasing cure rates while minimizing QoL impairment. Appropriate dimensioning of the resources to avoid harmful treatment delays and access to expert referral centers is also a priority.

Keywords: Brachytherapy; Cervical cancer; Cervix; Human papillomaviruses (HPV); Radiotherapy; Surgery.

Publication types

  • Review