All married women should get screened every 3 years to prevent cervical cancer, a doctor at University Hospital Sharjah (UHS) has said.
Dr Anaam Majeed, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at UHS, said “The deadly cancer – one of the UAE’s major cause of deaths among women, after breast cancer – is entirely preventable. She added that it was unfortunate that many women are not aware of how they can potentially save their lives by asking a physician to administer a pap smear and screening periodically.”
“The doctor recently joined UHS and has more than 40 years of clinical experience. UHS has expanded its departments, and added new clinics to meet the growing number of patients from Sharjah and other Emirates,” Dr Anaam added.
The international protocol is to screen women between 24 and 64 years of age for cervical cancer. “Since girls are getting married at considerably early ages in UAE, it should be started earlier for this age group,” Dr. Majeed said.
Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), and spread through intercourse. It is the third leading cause of death worldwide. Doctors fear that the number of deaths across the globe could rise to 350,000 globally within three years.
Dr Anaam said “The survival rate for this cancer is 40 percent in the first five years, but drops to 10 percent if discovered later on.” “Screening is available at all hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs), but the problem is often that doctors do not offer the screening and make women aware of the benefits,” Dr Anaam continued.
The UAE has introduced a vaccine against the virus into the healthcare system. It is recommended that girls between 9 to 26 years of age (globally approved age group) should be immunized against HPV.
The doctor said “The vaccine is now also globally administered to boys, as the virus can be transmitted by men. The US-based ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ has recommended the HPV vaccine for boys as it helps prevent genital warts and anal cancers. The common strains of HPV (HPV 16 and 18) cause 21,000 cases of cancer per year in the US, with a third of these cases in males.”
The vaccine is free of cost for Emiratis and expatriates.
Dr Anaam hopes to start an outreach program in which staff from UHS visit schools and social organizations, to educate women and girls by making them aware of this potentially fatal virus, availability of vaccination and screening and to protect the community.
“The screening takes barely two to three seconds,” said the doctor.
In early stages cervical cancer has no symptoms, but later on it causes abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.