‘Implement RH law properly to fight cervical cancer’
MANILA, Philippines – Aside from vaccination, what else can help prevent cervical cancer, which is prevalent in the Philippines?
For women's health advocate Elizabeth Angsioco, it's the proper implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law.
"I want to think that the proper implementation of RH law will have a good impact in terms of perhaps prevention of cervical cancer, because obviously the two are very much related," Angsioco said on Wednesday, May 13, during a forum on cervical cancer led by Likhaan Center for Women's Health.
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women. Every year, the Philippines reports at least 6,000 cervical cancer cases and 12 deaths. (QUIZ: What's your cervical cancer risk profile?)
Gynegologic oncologist Cecilia Ladines-Llave from the Philippine General Hospital cited at least 7 risk factors of cervical cancer, the "silent killer":
- early first sexual intercourse (less than 20 years old)
- multiple sexual partners
- sexually-transmitted diseases
- having 5 or more children
- previous pap smear tests yielding abnormal results
- weak immune system
More awareness needed
Angsioco, who is national chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, said early first sexual intercourse is "very common in our communities." Meanwhile, the absence of education on reproductive health and sexuality is "partly to blame" for risky behaviors, such as having multiple sexual partners.
The first 3 factors, she added, are all "directly related to the reproductive health law."
The controversial law requires government health centers to hand out free contraceptives and mandates sex education in schools. It also legalizes post-abortion medical care.
Until now, however, even more than a year after the Supreme Court declared the RH law as constitutional in 2014, Angsioco said women in communities still admit they "know nothing" about health issues, such as cervical cancer. (READ: Next in RH battle: Full implementation by DOH, LGUs)
"As in other issues, women who are economically marginalized are twice or even more vulnerable to diseases such as cervical cancer and they are more at risk because of scarcity in financial resources [and] lack of education," Angsioco said.
In August, the Department of Health (DOH) will give free vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to 300,000 female, Grade 4 students in the 20 poorest provinces in the country. (READ: Health advocates worry about HPV vaccination in August)
HPV is a virus that causes cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended before young girls become sexually active.
Meanwhile, for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this May, DOH urged women to go to 65 hospitals nationwide for free cervical cancer screening.
Cervical cancer vaccine image via Shutterstock