Late diagnosis of cervical cancer drops

Residents still reluctant to undergo screening for colorectal cancer, health officials say

Abu Dhabi: An increasing awareness about the risks of cervical cancer have reduced late-stage diagnosis of the disease to just 14.8 per cent, down from 30.3 per cent in 2012, health officials announced in the capital recently.


The gains have come after cervical cancer vaccines, dispensed free of cost to schoolgirls in Grade 11, experienced a high uptake of 93 per cent, Dr Jalaa Taher, head of non-communicable diseases at the emirate’s health sector regulator, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

Yet, the department’s continual efforts to tackle late-stage diagnosis of all cancers has not borne fruit in all cases.

Another screening programme launched the same year (2012) to reduce the burden of colorectal cancer has seen very little uptake, said Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health at the department. This is despite the fact that colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer among residents in the emirate, accounting for 12 per cent of recorded cancer cases, and the third most fatal after lung and breast cancers.

“We initially started screening for colorectal cancer in 2012-2013. At that point, 65.9 per cent of colorectal cancers were detected in advanced stages. Latest statistics show that this figure has fallen to 57.8 per cent. So the challenge remains,” Dr Taher said.

The burden remains high with colorectal cancer as the disease affects both men and women, although older men are particularly at risk. About 50 people die each year from the disease.

The department, therefore, recommends that all residents undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years, or a stool test every two years. However, the invasive nature of a colonoscopy, as well as pre-procedure preparation that includes a 24-hour liquid diet and the intake of laxatives, causes many patients to stay away.

“A colonoscopy is the best method to detect tissue growths, known as polyps. These can then be removed before they become cancerous. Such regular screening could prevent 60 per cent of fatalities from the disease,” Dr Taher explained.

She added that the department plans to increase awareness about the hazards of the disease, and also send out regular reminders to insured patients to have themselves screened.

In contrast, pap smears, which are used to screen for cervical cancer, are usually regularly undertaken by female residents, especially as they are often performed after pregnancy or during routine gynaecological exams.

“In alignment with our belief that prevention is better than cure, we strongly urge all women between the ages of 15 and 26 years to take the vaccine against the human papilloma virus, the most common cause for the disease. At the same time, women aged between 25 and 65 years of age who are married or have been married should undergo a Pap smear every three to five years,” Dr Al Hajeri recommended.

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