DUBAI // Every hour, a woman in the Middle East dies of cervical cancer, according to experts. Despite this, the UAE does not collect nationwide figures on the disease and there is no national programme to give girls vaccines that are almost completely successful in preventing it. To add to that, the Ministry of Health did not take part in a round-table event yesterday, cancelling its planned representation 20 minutes before it was due to start, according to organisers.
"Around 750 women each day die from cervical cancer," said Dr Swee Chong Quek, a representative of the World Health Organisation and head of the department of gynaecological oncology at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Singapore. "But it is still the second most common killer of women worldwide and in countries that are resource poor it is the number one killer." In the past week, Dr Quek has been speaking to health care professionals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the importance of educating patients about cervical cancer. "For the first time, we now have a really realistic shot at substantially reducing cervical cancer through the vaccine," said Dr Quek.
He said countries without the infrastructure to organise a screening programme could dramatically cut their rates of cervical cancer by vaccinating the women before they become sexually active. In the UAE, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi offers the jab for free to 17-year-old Emirati girls; everyone else has to pay between Dh500 to Dh900 for each of three doses. Two vaccines are available: Gardasil by Merck and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline. Both provide nearly 100 per cent protection from human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancers.