Fighting Cervical Cancer Now Made More Affordable
One Indonesian woman dies every hour from cervical cancer because poor screening coverage in the country means the deadly but curable disease is detected too late, a panel discussion in Jakarta was told on Tuesday.
Less than 5 percent of women in Indonesia regularly take a pap smear test — the screening process for the cancer — compared to the World Health Organization recommendation of 80 percent .
Data from the Indonesian Cancer Foundation (YKI) shows that this disease kills 25 women every day and that 40 to 45 new cases are detected daily, making it the most lethal cancer among Indonesian women.
Sumaryati Aryoso, head of YKI, said that many women, especially low-income earners, were concerned about the cost of screening and vaccination.
However, while a pap smear test in hospitals costs about Rp 100,000 ($9.70) and the three-shot HPV vaccine Rp 1.8 million, YKI offers these at lower costs.
“Screenings and vaccinations are less expensive at YKI, so women now have less to worry about,” she said, adding that YKI cuts the cost of screening and vaccine for any kind of cancer in half, giving millions of women across the country a better chance of detecting the cancer in time.
Tofan Widya Utami, an obstetric gynecologist from University of Indonesia, said the major reason for poor early detection was that the cancer in its early stages was mostly asymptomatic and goes unnoticed.
“Women only go to doctors when they can’t bear the pain and the vaginal bleeding, the most obvious symptoms of advanced cervical cancer,” Tofan said. “Thus, the cancer is detected when it is too late.”
She said that about 70 percent of cervical cancer sufferers in Indonesia only sought treatment after the disease was in its terminal stage.
“Lack of information about this disease and fear among women of a cancer diagnosis has led to this low level of screening and early detection,” Tofan said. “If they took a pap smear screening regularly — once a year — precancerous changes could be detected, making it 100 percent curable.”
“About 8,000 [Indonesian] women are currently suffering from cervical cancer,” she said. “And the mortality rate is more than 60 percent.”
She also said the disease had increased among younger women over the past five years, possibly due to changes in sexual behavior. She said that in her practice, the number of patients in their early 20s increased each year.
“Active smokers have twice the risk of acquiring this disease,” Tofan said, adding that even passive smoking could make a woman more vulnerable to the cancer — given that cigarettes contained more than 400 toxic chemicals — even though this was yet to be confirmed by research.
She said that there was a high correlation between sexually active women who had sexually active partners and getting cervical cancer.
“But the main cause of this disease is the infection of Human Papiloma Virus, or HPV type 16,18, 31, 45 and 52,” Tofan said.
“The government should introduce screening regulations to reduce the number of cervical cancer patients.
“Any woman can get this cancer as the HPV viruses are everywhere.”