KUALA LUMPUR: Women are encouraged to go for cervical cancer screening, following a pilot programme launched to eliminate the disease in Malaysia.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in Malaysia (7.7%), after breast cancer (32.1%) and colorectal cancer (10.7%).
She said early detection was the answer to put a stop to the disease, adding that the country's National HPV Immunisation Programme has achieved vaccination coverage of over 90% among 13-year-old girls, protecting them against the main types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer.
However, Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said cervical screening fell far below the World Health Organisation's (WHO) target of 70%.
"We have only managed to achieve a rate of 12.8%, a far cry from WHO's target," she said in her speech during the launched of ROSE (Removing Obstacles to Cervical Screening) on Monday (Jan 14).
ROSE is an innovation by University of Malaya (UM) and VCS Foundation (VCSF) of Australia.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UM and VCSF was signed by UM Medical Faculty Dean Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman and VCSF executive director associate Prof Marion Saville, who will collaboratively establish a not-for-profit joint venture to combine their expertise to enable the implementation of ROSE.
The event was also attended by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh.
Dr Wan Azizah added that the simplicity of self-sampling, HPV testing and a fully integrated e-health platform, will help many women to overcome barriers to screening.
"Healthcare professionals are also able to register women through their mobile phones, with the results delivered to the patients via their mobile phones.
"This translates to fewer visits to clinics for the women and eliminates much of the embarrassment and fear associated with a pap smear test at a clinic," she said.
Dr Wan Azizah said the HPV test is recommended for women over the age of 30.
Dr Dzulkefly also said adopting this new test as primary screening will require the Health Ministry to reengineer and strengthen its strategies and reorganise its current programmes in order to achieve the goals.
"Introducing new technology at a national scale will be a great challenge as the introduction cost will be high. MOH must carefully lay out the execution plan to ensure each and every women will benefit and has access to the new technology," he said.
Women who are above 30-years-old and in the B40 group can register for the programme at 49 Ministry clinics nationwide.
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