The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Friday that free cervical cancer screening for women is available in its 65 DOH-retained and selected private tertiary hospitals nationwide this whole month of May as part of the observance of “Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.”
In a press briefing held at the training center of Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Lope de Vega St., Manila, DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin emphasized the importance among women of availing themselves of the program, stressing that the screening against cervical cancer can help in the prevention of the hurting consequence/s of being afflicted by cervical cancer.
“Approximately, 12 Filipino women die daily due to cervical cancer. It is unfortunate, because this is a cancer which can be fought by early screening and early detection. In other words, pag mas maagang nakita, pwedeng matulungang magamot (when detected earlier, it can still be cured),” she said.
Dr. Garin explained that screening is a way also to prevent the emotional and economic losses that may occur to a family when a mother at her productive age of 40 to 50 years old suffered from cervical cancer.
She said the DOH has been very aggressive on the campaign because of the huge financial impact of cervical cancer in terms of the health of the family and the whole economy of the country.
She noted that preventing cervical cancer is a way to avoid the occurrence of children losing a mother who will take care of them as they grow up or a husband losing a partner in life and be left alone because the wife — who can still possibly live longer and more fruitful years has to die of cervical cancer.
She also cited the financial burden of getting sick with cervical cancer by a mother in a family for the treatment of the disease can entail losses of whatever savings/investments the family has kept for so many years, therefore resulting to their falling to lower socioeconomic status in search of survival and medication.
“That is why we are here to elevate awareness and encouraging screenings, with the help of our partners,” the DOH chief said.
Among the DOH partners in the screening are the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP), Philippines Society for Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC), and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD).
Some of the DOH-retained hospitals that provide free cervical screenings are Dr. Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Tondo Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Amang Rodriguez Medical Center, and Rizal Medical Center in the National Capital Region (NCR); and Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
According to Dr. Ma. Cynthia Fernandez-Tan, president of SGOP, the screening is easy and there is nothing to fear about it because they will be utilizing the VIA (visual inspection using acetic acid) procedure and does not require sophisticated equipment.
“In the procedure, acetic acid will be applied to the cervix. It will be then observed for some changes such as appearance of pre-cancer lesions which will turn white after a few minutes. The test is positive when an acetowhite area is identified; negative when no acetowhite areas are seen,” Dr. Tan explained.
Aside from the screening campaign, which has the theme “Babae Mahalaga Ka,” the DOH said that free vaccination against HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which is one of the causes of cervical cancer, will form part of the campaign so that the younger generation will be protected from the danger of developing cervical cancer in their future productive years.
Stressing that women play a big role in society — in home and anywhere that they serve as a glowing light — the DOH said this should be a motivating force for everyone to support the campaign.
“Losing them (women due to cervical cancer) is something that is not easy. Life is difficult without them,” Secretary Garin stressed.
As part of the fight versus cervical cancer, the DOH disclosed also that it will be rolling out its free HPV vaccination by the coming school year in public schools of 20 identified poorest provinces in the country.
According to DOH, the target of the HPV free vaccination are girls aged 9 to 13 years old who are in Grade 4 in the public schools because that is the age bracket where most girls are presumed not to be exposed yet to active sexual contacts and therefore most likely, the vaccines can be very effective.
Two doses of vaccines will be given in the immunization among the target of 350,000 female students who will be given the HPV vaccine after receiving the consent of their parents.
The cost of each vaccine (P600 or a total of P1,200 for two doses) will come from the regular budget of the DOH.