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LYON, France — More healthcare professionals in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are being trained in colposcopy and clinical management of precancerous lesions as part of a UNFPA-led effort to prevent morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer in the region.

Cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer type among women worldwide. Every year, more than 38,000 new cases and 18,000 deaths from cervical cancer are registered in Eastern Europe and Central Asia alone, where these rates are up to 10 times higher than in Western European countries. But more than 80 per cent of new cases and deaths are preventable through well-organised cervical screening programmes and timely treatment of pre-cancerous cases.

To that end, 14 participants from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region attended the first ‘training of trainers’ seminar as part of a Regional Training Programme in Colposcopy and Cervical Pre-Cancer Management, launched on 23 June in Lyon, France. The training was held at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which partnered with UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the International Federation of Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (IFCPC) to launch the programme.

‘This multi-year programme has been designed and is being supported by UNFPA following a comprehensive assessment of the priorities of countries in our region and the ways in which their institutional capacities need to be developed in order to prevent the mortality and morbidity caused by cervical cancer,’ said Tamar Khomasuridze, UNFPA Sexual and Reproductive Health Adviser for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The participants in the Lyon seminar were chosen through a rigorous selection process and received training prepared and delivered by world-renown experts, including Professor Walter Prendiville, Professor Margaret Cruickshank, Professor Xavier Carcopino, Dr. Partha Basu, and course coordinator Evelyn Bayle. Each graduate of the seminar will be responsible for supervising trainees in their respective countries as part of courses meant to build skills in colposcopy and clinical management of pre-cancerous cases.

Under a cooperation agreement signed this year with UNFPA Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the IFCPC will provide free-of-charge online training opportunities for national experts who meet stringent selection criteria. Currently more than 125 participants from 17 countries in the region have been selected and registered for fall 2016 courses that will be held in English and Russian. The courses will consist of five months’ worth of online lectures, with Q&A sessions and tests for each module, followed by skills building and certification of trainees, to be delivered in a recognised colposcopy clinic by clinical trainers such as those who participated in the Lyon seminar. The training programme is expected to continue next year as well.

‘We believe that by the end of 2017, we will reach minimum quantitative and qualitative standards to fight cervical cancer in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia,’ said UNFPA’s Khomasuridze. ‘This is a realistic objective, however, much depends on the readiness of governments to invest in sustainable programmes for organised cervical screening.’