Cervical cancer, though preventable, kills at least 14 women in Bangladesh daily.
Cervical cancer is also the second highest form of cancer women in Bangladesh suffer from.
Absence of vaccination and timely screening, early marriage and unhygienic private parts are the key causes of cervical cancer, said oncologists.
Annually 8,068 new patients of cervical cancer increase the burden on the nation’s health system killing at least 5,214 women, oncologists said quoting International Agency for Research on Cancer data while speaking at a roundtable Saturday.
The event was hosted by the March for Mother that campaigns for raising awareness about cancer in Bangladesh.
Oncologists said that cervical cancer was mainly caused by sexually transmitted virus, human papillomavirus or HPV.
Presence of this virus is quite common in humans but in 90 per cent people their natural immune system prevents the disease.
Persistent infection by HPB increases the risk of cervical cancer leading to precancerous lesions that can remain dormant for years and takes about 10 years to turn into cervical cancer.
SPV can cause cancer to males but rarely.
Vaccination of adolescent girls, or women before their first sexual act with men, with HPV vaccines is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University gynecological oncology professor Sabera Khatun.
But despite is ‘very low price’ women in Bangladesh are reluctant to take the HPV vaccine, she said.
The government lacks the strategy to make people aware about the vaccine or include it in its immunization programme, said National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital epidemiology department head Habibullah Talukder Ruskin.
Timely screening, which is also very simple, that can be done at the outpatient department or at a doctor’s can prevent cervical cancer, said Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital gynecological oncology professor Fatema Ashraf.
She said that the screening could be done with bare eyes.
The infected women could be easily treated after diagnosis through screening, said Fatema.
Each and every women should be screened every five-year, she said.
There are about 400 centres for testing cervical cancer at government hospitals across the country and the tests are done free of charge, but screening is done only when women ask for it, Habibullah said.
The government also need to increase the number of test centres as over three crore women aged 30 to 60 need screening at intervals,, he added.
The government announced in 2018 that the HPV vaccination would be included in its s immunization programme but did nothing to implement it, said Tajul Bari, former immunization programme manager of the Health Services
The global vaccine alliance GAVI provides HPV vaccines free of cost to least developed and developing countries, including to India and Sri Lanka.
But Bangladesh never requested GAVI to provide HPV vaccine though the entire immunization system of the country is run with GAVI’s support, Tajul said.
The government’s pilot project to vaccinate 30,000 adolescent girls in Gazipur with HPV vaccine occurred in 2016 and 2017 with support from GAVI.
But the programme ended as the government did not request GAVI to supply the vaccine, Tajul said.
An HPV vaccine costs about Tk 390 to Tk 750. Two dosage of vaccines are provided to the girls aged nine to 15, Tajul said.
The two vaccines immunize a girl against cervical cancer for her whole life and 90 per cent them remain free from the disease.
Early marriage, unhygienic private parts, taking children at short intervals and giving birth to too many children increase the risks of cervical cancer, said oncologists.