MSD recently hosted a round-table to address the rising issue of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the increasing risk of cervical cancer in the Middle East and North Africa region. The event, attended by experts from across the region highlighted the importance of early detection and regular screening for cervical cancer. The experts also called for the need for governments to increase awareness campaigns around disease prevention and screening including the recommendation of the HPV vaccine.
Today, cervical cancer is the most common HPV-related disease and nearly all cases of cervical cancer can be attributed to HPV infection. As per the World Health Organization, in 2012, it was estimated that cervical cancer accounted for 528,000 new cases around the world. It was also estimated that there were 266,000 deaths from cervical cancer, with more than 85 per cent of these deaths occurring in less-developed regions.
As of 2017, there were more than 1.8 million women in the UAE aged 15 years or older who may be at risk of developing cervical cancer. As per the Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (ICO), current estimates indicate that every year, 93 women in the country are diagnosed with cervical cancer, with 28 deaths every year. Cervical cancer is a cancer that can be prevented, yet this type of cancer is considered the third most frequent cancer among women in the UAE and the second largest cancer killer among women in this region.
Dr. Muna Tahlak, Consultant Obstetrics & Gynaecology & CEO of Latifa Hospital, Dubai, UAE, speaking at the event said: “We recommend women to have the HPV vaccine which is the primary prevention of cervical cancer. Early detection through screening can prevent the HPV virus developing into cancer, with Pap smear screening being most successful test to detect cervical cancer at an early stage. Yet, we are seeing that most cases of cervical cancer in the UAE are presenting for medical care in the latter stages of the disease, when chances of survival are slim and so the need for increasing education around preventative care has never been greater.”