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Why cervical cancer remains a leading cause of death in Singapore

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • Regular Pap smears and HPV vaccinations are crucial in preventing cervical cancer.
  • Fear and misconceptions about Pap smears deter many women from getting screened.
  • Education and awareness are essential in overcoming barriers to early detection and prevention.

Cervical cancer continues to be a significant health concern in Singapore, ranking as the 10th most common cancer among women and the 8th highest in cancer mortality rates. Despite the availability of effective screening methods and vaccinations, many women remain hesitant to undergo Pap smears, a crucial step in early detection and prevention.

The Importance of Pap Smears

Pap smears are essential for detecting abnormal cells in the cervix that could develop into cancer. Early detection through regular screening can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. However, fear and misconceptions about the procedure often deter women from getting tested. As one woman shared, "I was scared to do a Pap smear," highlighting a common sentiment that prevents timely diagnosis and treatment.

HPV and Cervical Cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of cervical cancer, with certain strains like HPV-16 and HPV-18 being the most oncogenic. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, and while it is common, persistent infection with high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer. Vaccination against HPV is highly effective in preventing these infections, yet uptake remains suboptimal due to lack of awareness and misinformation.

Statistics and Risk Factors

Between 2010 and 2014, nearly 1,000 women in Singapore were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 357 succumbed to the disease. The majority of cases were detected at an early stage, yet the mortality rate remains high. Risk factors include early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, smoking, and a history of sexually transmitted infections. Socio-economic factors, such as education and access to healthcare, also play a significant role.

Prevention and Early Detection

Preventing cervical cancer involves a combination of regular screening and HPV vaccination. In Singapore, HPV vaccines are available to females aged 9 to 26, with a full course consisting of three doses over six months. The efficacy of these vaccines is highest in those who have not been exposed to HPV-16 and HPV-18. Additionally, regular Pap smears are recommended for sexually active women, with the frequency depending on previous test results and individual risk factors.

Overcoming Barriers

Education and awareness are key to overcoming the fear and stigma associated with Pap smears and HPV vaccination. Healthcare providers must emphasize the importance of these preventive measures and address common concerns and misconceptions. Community outreach and public health campaigns can also play a vital role in encouraging women to take proactive steps in protecting their health.

Cervical cancer remains a top killer in Singapore due to fear and lack of awareness about preventive measures. By promoting regular Pap smears and HPV vaccination, and addressing the barriers that prevent women from seeking these services, we can reduce the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer. It is crucial for women to understand that early detection and prevention are their best defenses against this deadly disease.

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