The National Summit on Cervical Cancer, held on March 9, 2024, in Bengaluru, concluded with a resounding call to action for a #CervicalCancerMuktBharat (Free India of Cervical Cancer). The event, a collaborative effort by ECHO India, the Karnataka Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society, ARTIST for HER, and the Healthcare Sector Skill Council (HSSC), brought together policymakers, leading healthcare experts and key opinion leaders to discuss critical issues and chart a path forward in the fight against this preventable disease.

Shri Dinesh Gundu Rao, Honourable Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. He emphasized the government's commitment to combating cervical cancer, stating, "The Karnataka Government is working with concerted efforts to deliver healthcare services that are affordable, accessible, and of high quality to all citizens, with a particular focus on women's health. We are committed to working alongside healthcare professionals, NGOs, and civil society to ensure accessible screening, timely diagnosis, and effective treatment for all women in Karnataka."

Dr. (Col) Kumud Rai, Chairman of ECHO India, highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts, stating, "This summit has been a powerful platform for collective action. By bringing together diverse expertise, we can create a comprehensive roadmap to address the challenges and build a robust healthcare system equipped to effectively combat cervical cancer."

Dr. Hema Divakar, Chairperson & CEO of ARTIST for HER, emphasized the crucial role of awareness and education, stating, "Early detection and intervention are key to winning the battle against cervical cancer. By empowering women with knowledge and ensuring accessible screening services, we can significantly impact the future of women's health in India."

In 2020, WHO established a 90-70-90 Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy for 2030. This involves vaccinating 90% of girls by age 15 with the HPV vaccine, screening 70% of women between ages 35 and 45 using a high-performance test, and treating 90% of identified cervical disease cases. HPV, linked to pre-cancerous lesions, can be prevented with a vaccine.

Dr. Sandeep Bhalla, Associate Vice President of ECHO India, emphasized the crucial contribution of a well-trained healthcare workforce in cervical cancer prevention and control. He highlighted, "A skilled healthcare workforce, including nurses, plays a pivotal role in educating women, promoting preventive measures, and providing support across the care continuum. Strengthening the overall healthcare capacity and ensuring active participation in cervical cancer programs can substantially enhance healthcare outcomes."

Dr. Alexander Thomas, Chairperson - HSSC Karnataka, stressed the need for capacity building and skilling of healthcare professionals, stating, "A skilled and well-equipped healthcare workforce is essential for delivering effective preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services. The HSSC is committed to supporting the development of a competent workforce to address the specific needs of cervical cancer care."

The summit witnessed insightful discussions on various aspects of cervical cancer, including:

  • Strengthening preventive measures through HPV vaccination and awareness campaigns.

  • Expanding access to affordable and effective screening and diagnostic services.

  • Ensuring timely diagnosis and access to high-quality treatment.

  • Building capacity and skilling of healthcare professionals for effective cervical cancer care.

The summit concluded with a renewed commitment from all stakeholders to work collaboratively towards achieving the shared vision of a #CervicalCancerMuktBharat. The key takeaways and action plans formulated during the summit will be compiled and disseminated to guide future efforts in this crucial public health endeavor.