The rate of cervical cancer incidence in the Philippines remains high compared to other nations whose cervical cancer rates have declined.
“According to latest estimates, cervical cancer incidence in the Philippines has been stable since 1980 at a rate of around 22-26 cases per 100,000 women,” said Dr. Rey Delos Reyes, President of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP).
Approximately 12 Filipino women die of cervical cancer every day. It is the second most common cancer among women in the Philippines. About 6,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year and about 4349 die from the disease annually.
“The rate is certainly high, especially considering that cervical cancer is a preventable disease, and curable in its early stages,” said Delos Reyes.
The drop in cases in other countries has been attributed to well-organized screening programs, according to Dr. Delos Reyes. Hopefully, in the coming years preventive vaccination will also prove to be effective in helping to lower cervical cancer rates.
In a collaborative bid to reduce cervical cancer in the country, the Department of Health (DOH), along with advocacy partners Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP), the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), Philippine Society of Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC), and global pharmaceutical company MSD, recently conducted free cervical cancer screening for women aged 25 years old and above.
The activity covered 60 DOH-retained hospitals nationwide. The DOH plans to further widen the initiative which started with 10 Metro Manila government hospitals last year by encouraging local government hospital and health center participation as well in the following years.
During the day of the free screening at the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila, OB-GYN Department Chair Dr. Maria Carmen Quevedo noted that awareness seemed to have increased because those availing of the screening in the hospital increased more than two folds, from around 80 participants last year to 184 participants this year.
“Awareness is very vital in the fight against cervical cancer and we are gradually seeing the yields of aggressive information drives through mainstream media as well as the proliferation of information and education collaterals in the past years,” said Dr. Quevedo.
In fact, those screened said posters regarding the program made them come.
“If made aware, a lot of people would be naturally drawn to free government programs like these, especially since most Filipinos would prioritize bread-and-butter needs before regular health check-ups,” said one 29-year-old patient while waiting for her turn to be screened.
Screening represents one effective way of helping to prevent cervical cancer. In the Philippines, where women rarely undergo regular screening, cervical cancer is usually detected late. “About two-thirds of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed already at the advanced stage,” said Dr. De los Reyes.
Significantly, nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by certain high risk types of the human papillomavirus or HPV also associated with many vulvar and vaginal cancers. Other types result in genital warts that affect about 32 million men and women worldwide annually.
Being a sexually transmitted infection, abstinence is still the best way to avoid HPV. It is, however, a highly communicable disease and US data shows that 50% of sexually active people may contract the virus within their lifetime. While most infections resolve spontaneously, those that persist may lead to HPV-related diseases.
To counter the spread of HPV-related diseases, vaccines which help protect against certain types of HPV are already available and have been approved in the Philippines. In developed countries like the US and the UK, HPV vaccination is a recommended routine for girls as young as 11-13 years of age.
The Philippine FDA has likewise approved an HPV vaccine for men, to help protect them against genital warts.
To know more about cervical cancer and HPV, consult your doctor and visit www.helpfighthpv.com.
In a collaborative bid to reduce cervical cancer in the country, the Department of Health (DOH), along with advocacy partners Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP), the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), Philippine Society of Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC), and global pharmaceutical company MSD, recently conducted free cervical cancer screening for women aged 25 years old and above