January is Cervical Health Awareness Month — Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity causing almost all cases of cervical cancer.
Just one in five Indonesian women are aware of cervical cancer screening, according to a study presented at the ESMO Asia 2017 Congress. The research in nearly 5,400 women also found that only 5% knew about mammography for early detection of breast cancer.
“Early detection of cervical and breast cancers leads to better treatment, with improved survival and quality of life,” said lead author Dr. Sumadi Lukman Anwar, oncologist in training, Gadjah Mada University and Dr. Sardjito General Hospital, Yogyakarta.
“In Indonesia, many patients are diagnosed with breast and cervical cancers at a very late stage when there are limited options for curative treatment,” said Dr. Anwar. “To improve early detection we need to know levels of awareness and participation in screening programs, and what factors influence these levels.”
Since 2015, all women in Indonesia aged 40 and above are eligible for cervical and breast cancer screening in primary healthcare funded by the Indonesian Ministry of Health. Cervical smears are performed yearly for two years, then every five years if no abnormalities are found (otherwise they continue yearly).
Clinical breast examinations are performed yearly and women are referred for sonography or mammography if there are any lumps or other signs of breast cancer. Women do not receive a letter inviting them to attend screening; in most cases they use their own initiative and ask for an appointment in primary healthcare.
Worldwide, women’s risk of dying from cervical cancer may be much greater than medical professionals originally thought, according to a new study. Researchers found that black women in the United States are dying from cervical cancer at a rate 77% higher than previously thought and white women are dying at a rate 47% higher, according to the study published in the journal Cancer on Monday.
The good news?
The HPV vaccine (shots) can prevent HPV. Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up care. Cervical cancer screenings can help detect abnormal (changed) cells early, before they turn into cancer and most deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented by regular screenings and follow-up care.
How can Cervical Health Awareness Month make a difference? We can use this opportunity to spread the word about important steps women can take to stay healthy. Here are just a few ideas: Encourage women to get their well-woman visit this year and let them know that most insurance plans must cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening.
This means that, depending on their insurance, women can get these services at no cost to them. Talk to parents about how important it is for their pre-teens to get the HPV vaccine. Both boys and girls need the vaccine.