1.8 million women in UAE at risk of developing cervical cancer

Doctors are urging women above the age of 15 to take preventative measures

United Arab Emirates, June 12, 2018

More than 1.8 million women in the UAE may be at risk of developing cervical cancer, which has killed an estimated 28 women last year alone, warn doctors.

Doctors in the UAE are urging women above the age of 15 to take preventative measures, warning that around 93 women are diagnosed with the cancer each year, which has led the disease to become the second most frequent cancer among women in the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 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 per cent of these deaths occurring in less-developed regions.

Dr Saad Aswad, Consultant Gynaecology Oncology and Chair of the Obstetrician/Gynaecologist Department, Tawam Hospital, told Khaleej Times that the deadly disease can be prevented, yet this type of cancer is considered the second most frequent cancer among women in the UAE, and the second largest cancer killer among women in this region.

Dr Aswad said that cases of cervical cancer are on the rise in the country, adding that in 1998 there were only four cervical cancer cases in the entire UAE, whereas today there are almost 100 cases.

He stressed that many expats travel back home for treatment, which is why the current estimation might be lower than the reality.

'The cancer has definitely risen, 20 years ago there were only four cases, and the current estimation of 93 cases is the lower estimation of what is happening exactly.'

'It is the second cancer affecting women after breast cancer, but it is a disease that can be prevented.'

He said the most common age groups of the women diagnosed with the disease in the UAE are women in the ages of late 30-50.

Dr Aswad added that 40 per cent of the patients are Emiratis, whereas 60 per cent are expats diagnosed with the disease.

Dr Aswad said that without proper screening and vaccinations, it has been predicted that 52 women will die each day from cervical cancer in the MENA region by 2035.

'If we vaccinate the girls against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) virus, we can prevent cervical cancer by more than 90 per cent.'

Women are advised to have the vaccine before they are sexually active.

To combat the disease from rising, comprehensive screening and treatment programmes are being implemented to stop women from dying from the preventable cancer.

In particular, Abu Dubai is leading the fight against cervical cancer, as since 2008, girls in schools have been administered the HCP vaccines free of charge.

'The vaccine is offered in Abu Dhabi through school vaccination programmes, so at age 16, girls are provided the vaccine for free.'

Until 2017, globally 69 countries have added HPV vaccination to their national immunisation programme for girls, and 20 countries for boys.

Dr Muna Tahlak, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology and CEO of Latifa Hospital, Dubai, UAE, also urged women to have the HPV vaccine and screening programmes.

'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.