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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Nine out of ten cancer cases 'could be prevented with smear test'

Doctors urge women to seek cervical check

Women between 25 and 65 are being encouraged to undergo a pap smear test every three to five years and to receive the HPV vaccination if aged between 15 and 26, according to the National Reference Laboratory, a Mubadala Investment Company.

It advised to follow the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) and the Department of Health Abu Dhabi on cervical cancer screening.

Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus, HPV, and typically develops very slowly.

Up to 93 per cent of cases can be prevented if detected early through a pap smear test, which is performed during a general gynaecological examination.

However, cervical cancer remains the second leading cancer for females in the UAE because far too many cases are detected in the later stages of the disease.

There have been a number of initiatives to increase the awareness and the access of women to Pap smear testing. For example, under the Ministry’s National Cervical Cancer Screening programme, all Emirati women from Dubai and the Northern Emirates are invited to visit their local Mohap primary health centre to receive a complimentary pap smear test.

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The goal is to improve early cervical cancer detection. So far, the initiative has proven beneficial with 25 per cent more women undergoing testing in 2017 compared to the previous year.

"Increasing awareness of the importance of early detection and its role in decreasing the mortality and morbidity of cervical cancer within the female population of the UAE is an important focus for us,” said Dr Suhaila Alameeri, consultant anatomic pathologist at NRL, and member of the Abu Dhabi Health Authority Cervical Cancer Screening Technical Taskforce.

“The UAE health authorities have invested resources across the network of public and private healthcare facilities to provide easy access to Pap smear testing for both national and expatriate women. Though we have seen improvements, more work needs to be done to encourage a greater volume of women to participate in regular gynaecological check-ups.

"This will require an ongoing collaborative effort from all stakeholders including government, primary healthcare providers, specialists and laboratories.”

Incidents of cervical cancer have dropped dramatically in places like Northern America and Europe, according to Dr Wael Lakkis, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at the Jumeirah American Clinic in Dubai.

“But it is still increasing in countries like Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia and it’s still the leading cause of death of women,” he said.

“The biggest issue is how often should you do a pap smear. The consensus in the United States, which is very similar to the population here, is to do a pap smear and HPV vaccination from 21 onwards because HPV needs 7 to 12 years to develop so it’s extremely rare to have it earlier.”

He recommended a test every year after 30 to further decrease cervical cancer rates.

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