Pakistan 7th on cervical cancer watch

Published: February 9, 2016
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The disease has a 60 per cent fatality rate. PHOTO: REUTERS

The disease has a 60 per cent fatality rate. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: Pakistan has been ranked 7th out of 50 countries by the Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card (CCGCC) for highest number of cervical cancer deaths.

This was revealed in a press briefing held by United Against Cervical Cancer (UACC) group in the backdrop of a world cancer awareness campaign on Tuesday.

Dr Noreen Zafar, a consultant gynecologist at the Doctors’ Hospital, said that cervical cancer was second most common cancer in women worldwide every year. “It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women. It kills an estimated 275,000 women every year. A total of 500,000 new cases are reported worldwide. Cervical cancer is the only cancer which is almost entirely preventable,” she said.

She said that it was caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and there was a vaccine to prevent it. “It is very unfortunate that everyday 20 women die of cervical cancer even though it can be prevented through a vaccine,” she said.

Dr Asif Kaleem Sheikh, the Pakistan Paediatric Association Punjab president, said that every woman was at risk. “The best time to get vaccinated is before marriage. However, all females from nine years onwards can benefit from the vaccine. Getting the vaccine as early as possible will protect them in future,” he said.

He said Pakistan had an increasing trend of cervical cancer cases. “Most of these cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage when a woman is in the prime of her life, taking care of her children and family. It is very important to educate masses and persuade them to get their daughters vaccinated,” he said.

Dr Haroon Hamid, the Pakistan Paediatric Association Punjab general secretary, said that several tools and technologies existed to prevent cervical cancer. “These interventions remain largely inaccessible to girls and women who need them the most. In Pakistan, we spend millions of rupees on weddings and dowries. However, when it comes to health of daughters and wives, we are ignorant and consider the topic a taboo,” he said.

“The best gift to our daughters on their weddings will be vaccination against this killer as more than 60 per cent of those who get cervical cancer die from it,” he said.

Dr Hamid said that lack of awareness was a major cause behind the high fatality rate of the disease. “The policymakers must come together to raise awareness among the public about the disease. This will encourage women to get themselves screened and vaccinated against this deadly, but preventable disease,” he said.

“According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study in Pakistan, the incidence of cervical cancer was less than 9 per year per 100,000 in 2002. It rose to 13.6 per 100,000 in 2008. This shows that the country is moving from low-risk level to moderate-risk level,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th,  2016.

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