Short Communication

Elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem—how shorter brachytherapy could make a difference during COVID-19

7 Feb 2022
Aparna Gangopadhyay

The World Health Organization has called for elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem and has adopted strategies in this regard. However, the estimates for achieving the goals depend on the ability to provide timely treatment in a certain proportion of cases. The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has had a serious impact on healthcare delivery in many low and middle income countries (LMICs) with the highest burden of cervical cancer; funds and infrastructure are being reallocated to deal with the emergency, and cancer care has been seriously affected. In the absence of clear and reliable estimates, the exact extent of disruption remains unclear. It is, therefore, essential that pragmatic approaches are adopted to save lives. There has been considerable debate regarding the use of the 9 Gy × 2 fractions high dose rate brachytherapy schedule for the treatment of locally advanced cervical carcinoma. However, in LMICs with the highest global burden of locally advanced cervical cancer cases, radiation facilities have been using this fractionation schedule in many cases to deal with the overwhelming number of patients, who would have otherwise been denied timely treatment. In view of the current pandemic, and the difficulties in accessing and delivering timely healthcare, mortality owing to delayed treatment cannot be denied in LMICs, which already have underequipped healthcare facilities. Use of the shortest available fractionation schedule to provide timely treatment would serve to save more lives in regions with high incidence and mortality from the disease.

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