Friday, December 1, 2023

2040 target set for elimination of cervical cancer in Ireland

Announcement made on Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action

Ireland is on target to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040, the Health Minister has announced today.

Modelling of Irish data, including HPV vaccination rates, screening coverage and population projections has identified that Ireland can reach this goal within the next 17 years.

The current annual incidence of cervical cancer in Ireland is around 11 cases per 100,000 women, leading to 90 deaths each year. The WHO defines elimination of cervical cancer as fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 women.

“We can now say that babies born today will reach adulthood in an Ireland where we expect to have eliminated cervical cancer,” Minister Stephen Donnelly said.

“HPV vaccination for boys and girls is a game-changer on our road to elimination, and I’m proud that Ireland was one of the first countries to introduce HPV vaccination through the National Immunisation Programme in 2010, as well as being among the first to adopt HPV cervical screening in 2020. We are now in a strong position to exceed the WHO global targets by announcing 2040 as the date on which we expect to achieve elimination in Ireland.”

It is envisaged that health officials in Ireland can achieve the 2040 goal by:

  • Increasing HPV vaccination rates for girls by age 15 from 80 to 90 per cent by 2030
  • Maintaining cervical screening coverage at or above 73 per cent, and
  • Maintaining the number of women receiving treatment within the first year of cervical cancer diagnosis at or above 97 per cent

The announcement comes on Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action, a global initiative to eliminate cervical cancer.

A national public consultation will take place in 2024 to develop an action plan to achieve the 2024 elimination target. The plan will take into account the higher rates of illness and death from cervical cancer seen among marginalised groups. The consultation aims to find solutions to reduce such health inequalities.

As part of this process, the use of HPV self-sampling in cervical screening will be explored. Preliminary research has shown that this testing method could potentially increase screening participation in Ireland, benefiting eligible women who have never attended cervical screening and those who don’t attend regularly.

“Improving health equity will be a priority as we push towards elimination,” said Dr Caroline Mason Mohan, head of the HSE’s Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy Group.

“We’re calling on everyone to get involved in the public consultation to develop a national action plan and support our work to reduce inequities so that we can reach more people and ensure everyone benefits.”

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