By Orville Williams
The advice being given to countries across the world about Covid-19 vaccinations and herd immunity, should be applied to another healthcare issue – the prevalence of cervical cancer.
That’s the view of Dr Raymond Mansoor, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Sir Lester Bird Mount St John’s Medical Centre (SLBMSJMC).
According to Dr Mansoor, cervical cancer is the third leading cause of cancer among women in the ‘developed’ world and in our region – the ‘developing’ or resource-limited – it is actually the second most common cancer affecting females, after breast cancer.
All women are at risk for contracting cervical cancer, from the age of first sexual contact all the way to the elderly. Despite this widespread threat though, it is largely preventable.
“[The human papillomavirus] HPV is the direct cause of 99.7 percent of all cervical cancer cases and so there is definitely some argument or discussion that can be had as to the benefits of vaccination against cervical cancer,” Dr Mansoor explained.
“If we could get 70 to 80 percent of our population to be vaccinated against HPV, you will find that our cervical cancer incidence rate will diminish.
“Countries like Australia have now reached a 70 percent immunisation bracket and they have found a greater than 50 percent reduction in their incidents of cervical cancers per year; so we do know – based on epidemiological evidence – that the vaccine does work.”
While an HPV vaccination programme is up and running here in Antigua and Barbuda, Dr Mansoor acknowledged that – based on his latest information – it was not seeing the level of success it could.
He noted, however, that getting women to engage in the programme and get vaccinated was not a native struggle but an issue that several countries were facing, along with the overall drive toward herd immunity.
Where the prevalence of cervical cancer is concerned, Dr Mansoor added: “I would say that it’s probably a little bit more now than it was before. The data, however, doesn’t really support [that]; it depends on who you read.
“We do know that in the developing world, it’s different than in the ‘developed’ [world]. So, you’ll find that in some countries where they have a little bit more advanced pap smear programme [and] those who have moved on and done a very aggressive vaccination programme, their incidence of cervical cancer has fallen.
“[However], in the developing world, our incidence is pretty much about the same or maybe slightly increased in the last 20 to 30 years. There could be many different factors for that, one of which is that more people are accessing the healthcare services, but there is definitely a disparity between the developed and the developing world.”
Dr Mansoor was speaking on Observer AM yesterday, ahead of a virtual forum on cervical cancer to be hosted by the hospital on June 26 and 27.