KARACHI: A team of oncologists and gynaecologists said that the “Pap Smear Test” should be available at all major public hospitals for the timely diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Dr Yasmin Bhurguri and Dr Saadia Ahsan Pal held a media workshop at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday. They said that every married or sexually active woman must necessarily undergo the essential screening process at least once, between the age of 30 years to 45 years. “This is extremely crucial as a maximum number of women coming to us with the advanced stage of the disease are between 45 to 55 years old,” said the two experts.
On the basis of her ongoing study cervical cancer, Dr Bhurguri said that the rate has surged from 3.6 per cent in 1995-1997 to 3.8 per cent in 1998- 2005 and to five per cent in 2003 to 2007. This is the third most common type of cancer among Pakistani women and there is a need to make people aware at all levels about ways to prevent it, she said.
Dr Pal said the government need to focus more on prevention of cervical cancer, a silent ailment increasingly recorded among women with a devastating impact on the entire society. Ideally, the test must be conducted every year once a women is married (or becomes sexually active), she said. She regretted that due to rampant ignorance women themselves are often reluctant to get the essential screening done even once in a lifetime.
“This is in a scenario when every sexually active woman is at risk of the Henan Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes cancer of the cervix,” said the gynecologist. Answering a question, she said that the pap smear test is available at a few of the government hospitals where the staff is overworked and in the private sector it costs from Rs500 to Rs1,000. “This is nothing as there is no cost for life,” commented Dr Bhurguri. Dr Pal seconded her, mentioning that women brought in the mid- or advanced stages experienced pain and bear expenses of surgery, radiation, medication etc.
The doctors said in some countries it has been declared mandatory for all girls. Dr Bhurguri said cancer of the cervix can be prevented through a twopronged strategy, comprising vaccination and screening. She said that the vaccines have yet to be available in the country but could be procured through GAVI and this would not only help the government get it at a negligible cost of ten cents per vaccine but also make it easily accessible to people.