By Ana Theresa Williams,BSN,RN
It is the main goal of the Department of Health (DOH) to protect more Filipino women from this dreaded but preventable and treatable cervical cancer. Studies show more than 6,000 Filipino women every year are diagnosed with cervical cancer and the disease is usually detected late.
Last Monday at Almendras Gym, a total of 1,064 women was able to avail the VIA or Visual Inspection using Acetic Acid for free. Some of them were reported to be negative while other VIA results were positive for cancer. Thus, immediate referral to their respective OB-Gynecologists was highly recommended for proper treatment.
The month of May is a momentous time and opportunity for the country to put into light the second leading cancer-related cause of death among Filipino women, which is the cervical cancer. The first mortality case is breast cancer. It is very unfortunate that everyday more than 12 women die from this disease, primarily because they are detected late and were not given early protection.
Organized by the DOH, the National Cancer Prevention and Control Program conducted this whole day event with this year’s theme “Babae, Mahalaga Ka! Magpa-Screen…NOW Na!”
In partnership with non-government and private sector organizations such as the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society Foundation Inc., Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines, Cervical Cancer Prevention Network, City Health Office and MSD, the health department offered free cervical cancer screening using the VIA method for women aged 25 to 55 years old.
POGS national president Dr. Mayumi Bismark said VIA is the alternative for Pap Smear especially in low resource setting without access to a pathologist, to cover a large number of women for cervical cancer screening.
Gyne-Oncologist Grace Quirapas Madis,MD said whether Pap Smear or VIA this should be regularly done once a year to fight cervical cancer.
Dr. Madis said it’s difficult to detect cervical cancer during the early stage. Better get cervical screening before it’s too late, she said.
To help treat more women, the DOH will be providing free VIA test for the rest of May for women ages 25 to 55 years old at selected DOH hospitals. With regular screening, women will know if there are changes in their cervix due to HPV infection, which may eventually progress into cancer.
The DOH officials said nearly 100 percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV or Human Papilloma Virus. Under the campaign against cervical cancer, which is now on its 9th year, the health department urges women to be educated on HPV-related diseases, encouraging them to undergo early and regular screening as well as get themselves protected through HPV immunization.
Furthermore, as part of its plan to curb the burden of this preventable disease in the country, the DOH announced the expansion of its HPV immunization program to include more provinces, in order to increase the number of beneficiaries like 9-year-old Grade IV girls in public schools of this free quadrivalent HPV vaccines – this is a vaccine that protects against the four strains of HPV.
DOH secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said a woman can be a mother, a sister or a daughter. Women have a very important role to play in the society so much so that when cervical cancer strikes them, the entire community gets hurt, she said.
With its combined vaccination and screening programs, Dr. Ubial said a cervical cancer-free future could be within reach for our Pinays as the DOH reinforces its commitment to protect more women from HPV-related cervical cancer, and ease them from the physical, psychological and financial burden of this disease.
“The tragedy of cervical cancer deaths is that this cancer is preventable and treatable. In fact, in developed countries, cervical cancer is much less common because screening and vaccination are well established. Our goal now in the Philippines is to institutionalize HPV immunization and screening so that our precious women will no longer die of cervical cancer, Ubial said.