Dr Pamela Munster, a renowned cancer expert from the University of California in San Francisco, explains why Zulekha Hospitals’ HPV vaccination drive, and getting regular screenings, is so important.
Unlike with breast cancer, there isn’t anything you can do at home to help detect cervical cancer. It poses as much of a threat to the lives of women (and men) in the UAE. But there are ways to actively prevent yourself from carrying or transferring the virus that leads to the disease. A new health campaign, ‘Smear, Don’t Fear’, led by Zulekha Hospitals, has been launched to encourage women across the country to get checked for cervical cancer and to outline the importance of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for girls and boys from a young age. Launched at Dubai Ladies Club earlier this month with the support of finance group Dubai First, the initiative has been created to raise awareness of the importance of cervical cancer screening in a country that typically avoids discussing such private topics, and how the disease can be easily prevented if the right precautions are taken.
In the UAE alone, roughly 100 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and statistics show that almost 30 of these women will die. These deaths are largely preventable, however, because cervical cancer can be cured if it is detected at its earliest stage.
Cervical cancer appears on the neck of the uterus and is contracted by a virus that is preventable through the HPV vaccination. If children (both boys and girls) receive the vaccination from the age of nine, they’re prevented from contracting the virus. Later on, women should begin conducting regular pap smear tests with their doctor, during which any sign of unusual cells can be detected early so that treatment can be provided.
When and why to schedule your pap smear?
Cervical cancer can affect anyone over the age of 25. Regular pap smears, carried out every three years starting from when a woman gets married, will help detect cancer-causing HPV. More than 92 percent of those diagnosed in the early stages of cervical cancer can be successfully cured with minimal side effects if caught at an early stage through a pap smear test check-up.
As women do not report any noticeable symptoms until after the cancer has invaded the surrounding organs or spread to the lungs, detecting the virus at an early stage is crucial. During the test, a doctor will take a small sample of cells from a woman’s cervix and send them to a laboratory where they will be checked for abnormalities. The long-term goal of the ‘Smear, Don’t Fear’ campaign is to implement a population-wide vaccination drive to permanently rid the UAE of cervical cancer.
How to get screened and how to get vaccinated
The HPV vaccination can be given to girls and boys from the age of nine and will prevent the onset of the virus that causes cervical cancer.
From now until Monday August 31, women can take advantage of free gynaecological specialist consultations and pap tests at Zulekha Hospitals in Dubai and Sharjah. Women are advised to register online by completing the ‘Free Test’ section, after which they will receive a call to schedule the appointment.
Register for your free consultation and test at www.you.zulekhahospitals.com. Zulekha Hospital, Al Qusais (04 367 8866).
Cervical cancer globally in numbers
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and the seventh overall.
Number of new cervical cancer cases worldwide.
Number of deaths from cervical cancer worldwide.