LAHORE - Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card (CCGCC) has ranked Pakistan 7th amongst 50 countries with highest number of cervical cancer deaths.

“Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide and the third leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Dr Noreen Zafar, consultant gynaecologist at Doctors Hospital while speaking at a forum arranged at a local hotel yesterday by United Against Cervical Cancer (UACC) in the backdrop of World Cancer Awareness campaign.

“Cervical cancer kills an estimated 275,000 women every year and 500,000 new cases are reported worldwide. It is the only cancer which is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) causes this. It is very unfortunate that everyday 20 women die of cervical cancer which can be prevented through a vaccine,” Dr Noreen Zafar said.

Asif Kaleem Sheikh, President Pakistan Paediatric Association Punjab, said that ‘every woman is at risk and the best time to get vaccinated is before marriage’.

“All females from 9 years onwards can benefit from vaccine. Getting the vaccine as early as possible will protect them in future,” he said. He said Pakistan has an increasing trend of cervical cancer cases which are normally diagnosed at advanced stages when a woman is in the prime of her life, taking care of her children and family. It is very important to educate masses and persuade them to get their daughters vaccinated.

Dr Haroon Hamid, General Secretary PPA Punjab, said that according to a study carried out by WHO, numerous tools and technologies exist to prevent cervical cancer. These interventions remain largely inaccessible to girls and women who need them the most.

“We spend millions of rupees on weddings and futile rituals like dowry, however when it comes to health of daughters and wives, we are ignorant and consider such topics a taboo. We believe, the best gift to our daughters on their wedding is vaccination against this killer as more than 60% of those who get cervical cancer die,” he added.

Health expert said that unawareness regarding the disease is the dilemma of society. Government, policy makers and medical fraternity must come together to create the awareness among the public. It will encourage women for screening and vaccination against this deadly but preventable disease.

‘WHO study shows, in Pakistan, the incidence of cervical cancer was less than 9 per 100,000 back in 2002 which has moved to 13.6 per 100,000 in 2008. It showed that the country is moving from low risk to moderate risk level making it a danger zone where the young girls are more at risk than before. We are standing in 2016 and any concerned person can sense the gravity of conditions. Lack of latest data and research is adding to the misery,’ they added.

UACC is established with an aim to fight this disease and protect women who have the responsibility of upbringing coming generations. Vaccination along with screening can reduce the incidence of cervical cancer by 94% and the screening should be continued even after vaccination, panelists concluded.