Israel can eradicate cervical cancer if right steps are taken - health chief

What are the main factors that dramatically increase the risk of cervical cancer and what can we do to eradicate it?

Two genetically engineered T Cells (light green) attacking a cancer cell in red. (photo credit: TILDA BARLIYA/ASTAR SHAMUL/CYRILLE COHEN)
Two genetically engineered T Cells (light green) attacking a cancer cell in red.
(photo credit: TILDA BARLIYA/ASTAR SHAMUL/CYRILLE COHEN)

With the help of vaccination, prevention and early detection, it is possible to strive for the eradication of cervical cancer in Israel, according to the Israel Cancer Association, which is marking International Awareness Week for the disease between January 16 and 21.

In the last decade, the number of women diagnosed with a precancerous lesion in the cervix in Israel increased by about 30%, mainly due to the early diagnosis. Every year, about 1,200 women here are diagnosed with such a precancerous condition. Last year, some 300 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer; in 2018, 251 women and in 2012, 231 women were diagnosed with the actual disease.

WHO warns:  Cervical cancer cases could see 50% increase by 2030

According to data from the World Health Organization, 600,000 new cases of cervical cancer are discovered every year and half of them die from the disease. It estimates that – if no action is taken – deaths from cervical cancer will increase by an additional 50% by 2030, mainly in low-income countries.

 An image of lung with breast cancer metastasis, surrounded by inflammatory complement protein: Cyan: Cell nuclei; Red: Complement protein; Green: blood vessels; (credit: LEA MONTERAN) An image of lung with breast cancer metastasis, surrounded by inflammatory complement protein: Cyan: Cell nuclei; Red: Complement protein; Green: blood vessels; (credit: LEA MONTERAN)

As for countries with high incomes, such as Israel, where girls have the opportunity to be vaccinated against the virus and women undergo regular examination and are treated early for any precancerous lesion, up to 80% of cervical cancer cases can be prevented, the ICA said.

Prof. Tally Levy, director of the gynecological oncology unit at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and a member of the ICA’s gynecological oncology update committee, explained that the main cause of cervical cancer development is the papilloma virus.

Tests for the presence of the papilloma virus and a Pap smear from the cervix are essential tests designed to prevent the development of cervical cancer by detecting early changes that may become cancerous if not treated in time.

Women between the ages of 25 and 65 should routinely perform the examination every three years, and if those who are older have not, they should get tested. Parents should also take advantage of the vaccine against the papilloma virus that is given to young teenage girls and boys (who could otherwise infect girls when they get older) free of charge in schools. Women and men between the ages of 26 and 45 are also urged to get the vaccine as part of the health funds’ supplementary insurance plans.

Each month, eight Israeli women die from cervical cancer

ICA director-general Moshe Bar Haim said that “the best experts in Israel work on our scientific content in seminars, information brochures and campaigns and it is published thanks to public donations with the goal that it can be implemented today.”

The main factors that dramatically increase the risk of cervical cancer are the human papilloma virus and smoking. About 40 strains typical of the virus are found in the genitals and pass through direct contact, usually during sexual intercourse. Some are low risk, which only causes warts and other varieties are considered high risk, associated with the development of premalignant changes and cancer in the cervix.

As for smoking, an extensive national health survey conducted in China found that active smoking increases the risk by 49% and that exposure to active and passive smoking for 15 years or more caused a 95% increase in the risk of dying from cervical cancer, compared to women who were not exposed to smoking. The ICA urges women to quit smoking as an effective way to reduce the risk of cervical cancer and other cancers.

Cervical Cancer Awareness Week will include a digital campaign to encourage tests for early diagnosis and vaccination. In addition, the ICA will hold an online conference on cervical cancer on Wednesday, January 18 at 10 a.m. that will include topics such as innovations and updates, sexuality and relationships, female yoga, as well as a question-and-answer panel.

The ICA also runs a unique service to help patients with cervical cancer. Called “sexual counseling for patients,” it is provided free and without the need for a referral by a specialist nurse. It is for any patient who wishes to receive a consultation as well as support and guidance. The service is provided free of charge, individually or as a couple in Hebrew and Russian. Details about the service in the following link: https://www.cancer.org.il/template/default.aspx?PageId=5988.

According to a new international study published in the journal The Lancet Global Health, two-thirds of women in the world have not been tested for cervical cancer but in Israel, about 61% of women have been tested.

The ICA’s Telemedia information service staffed round the clock at 1800-599-995 provides a large variety of information about cancer, as does its website at www.cancer.org.il.