Cervical cancer is the world's second most common cancer among women. According to the World Health Organisation, most cases - almost 88 per cent - occur in low-income countries largely due to the lack of regular screening. But with management and care, this killer can be tamed. Sadly this message is not getting enough of an airing in the nation.
As The National reported yesterday, health care professionals and government regulators in the UAE can do more to help women beat the odds and address this treatable disease. Part of what's needed are shifts in thinking about preventive health care. But more than anything it is resources that must be allocated.
Regular screening is instrumental in avoiding this disease. Because most cases of cervical cancer do not show symptoms until it is too late, only with frequent check-ups can precancerous changes be detected before they become life threatening.
Accurate data and research would help determine where the disease is spreading, and help prevent it. So too would funding to make it easier for hospitals to track women in need of regular screenings. In the UK, for instance, programmes used to monitor patients' examination schedules have been effective at reducing the rate of cancer development.
Of course cervical cancer is not the only preventable illness that is doing unnecessary damage in the Emirates. Heart disease and diabetes, two common afflictions that do not differentiate between gender, are the result of poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. A recent study by the Dubai Health Authority, for instance, found that one in five people in the UAE will die from cardiovascular disease. By eating better, not smoking, exercising - and if necessary, medication - these numbers could be dramatically reduced. But again, this takes visiting the doctor, something far too many people refuse to do.
As with many preventable diseases in the UAE, the first step is visiting a health care professional for regular examinations, whether the dentist or general practitioner. In the end, however, doctors can only offer advice on staying healthy. It's up to patients to take it.