DOH offers free cervical cancer screening

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - With more than 6,000 Filipino women diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, the Department of Health (DOH) is providing free screening using vinegar in select hospitals nationwide.

The method, called visual inspection using acetic acid (VIA), is available this month for women aged 25 to 55.

The program is part of the celebration of Cervical Cancer Consciousness Month.

The DOH said that through regular screening, women could monitor any change in their cervix, particularly infection caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which may develop into cancer.

“Women play an important role in the society, such that when they get afflicted with cervical cancer, the entire community gets affected,” Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said in a statement. 

VIA, a globally recognized method of checking for cervical cancer, is affordable and accessible. Its result is immediately known, unlike that of the PAP smear method.

In VIA, trained health workers swab the cervix with vinegar. The vinegar will not affect a normal cervical tissue, while those with pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions will turn white.

Health officials said cervical cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death among Filipino women.

Every day more than 12 women die from the disease, primarily because the cancer is detected late and women were not given early protection. 

Data show almost 100 percent of cervical cancer is caused by HPV.

Ubial said women should be educated on HPV-related diseases. She encouraged them to undergo early and regular screening as well as get themselves protected through HPV immunization. 

“The tragedy of cervical cancer death is that this cancer is preventable and treatable. In developed countries, cervical cancer is much less common because screening and vaccination are well established,” she said. 

The goal of the DOH, Ubial said, is to “institutionalize HPV immunization and screening so that our precious women will no longer die of cervical cancer.” 

Davao women screened 

At least 2,000 women were screened for cervical cancer during the launch of the Cervical Cancer Consciousness Month in Davao City yesterday.

Themed “Babae, Mahalaga Ka! Magpa-Screen... NOW Na! (Woman, You Are Priceless! Get Screened... At Once!),” the screening was part of DOH’s cancer prevention and control program and was implemented in partnership with non-government organizations and private sector groups such as the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society Foundation Inc., Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines and the Cervical Cancer Prevention Network.

The women attended a lecture on cervical cancer, wherein health officials explained the importance of cervical cancer screening and the government’s program for free medication and medicine, which the women can avail themselves of from the DOH.

During the event, the DOH also announced the expansion of its HPV immunization program to include more provinces and increase the number of beneficiaries. – With Edith Regalado

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