A patient undergoes cervical cancer screening to detect precancerous lesions.

The Department of Health (DOH) in partnership with global healthcare company MSD and medical societies, the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP), and the Philippine Society for Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC), held free cervical cancer screenings last May. The screenings were done in all DOH-retained hospitals in celebration of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Jane, a 32‐year‐old street vendor and mother of two, is one of the thousands of Filipino women who availed of the free cervical cancer screening conducted at the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) in Manila. She believes that getting screened for cervical cancer is not just about her, but more so about her family. Despite this, it took some convincing for her to avail of the free cervical cancer screening.

“My husband persuaded me to get screened. He insisted that I go to the hospital. After all, it was free and he knows that cancer runs in my family,” Jane said, while she patiently waited for her turn to be screened. She said her husband had to repeatedly nudge her into going before she finally agreed. Jane was initially suspicious because she was told that the procedure usually hurt and considered the long queues a hassle.

“But then I realized these were only minor inconveniences. It’s very hard to get sick these days,
especially when I have children to feed and take care of,” Jane said.

Dr. Jennifer Tan Co, an OB‐GYN Infectious Disease Specialist at the JRRMMC relates that there are two very important challenges in the fight against cervical cancer in the Philippines. “First is the lack of awareness about the disease. Second is the inaccessibility of cervical cancer screenings, especially in rural communities across the country,” Dr. Co explained.

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer kills one woman every two minutes around the world. Approximately 86% of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries. In the Philippines, an estimated 12 women die from the disease each day. Moreover, the estimated individual loss of life in the US for cervical cancer is about 25.3 years.

Virtually all cases of cervical cancer (about 99%) are caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. HPV can also cause other types of anogenital cancers, head and neck cancers, and genital warts in both sexes.

“There’s a misconception among Filipino women that undergoing screening is painful, unnecessary, and inconvenient. But wouldn’t you rather have the chance to prevent cervical cancer from killing you? Screening procedures are carefully done by trained medical staff. Hence, patients experience little or no discomfort at all,” Dr. Co clarified, encouraging all women to avail of cervical cancer screenings.

As in any type of cancer, the treatment cost runs high. According to Dr. Co, each procedure for treatment of cervical cancer may cost up to a hefty P100,000 to P300,000 and there is no guarantee that the patient will be disease‐free all her life. In comparison, getting annual cervical screenings cost as little as P100 in public hospitals and P500 to 1000 in private hospitals.

Dr. Co emphasized that prevention is the KEY. Aside from screening, vaccination offers protection from HPV infection, which may lead to cervical cancer and other anogenital cancers (vulvar, vaginal, anal), as well as genital warts.

To know more about HPV and protection against HPV consult your doctor. You may go to www.helpfightHPV.com