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Understanding Cervical Cancer in the Philippines: Prevention, Symptoms, and Screening

Updated: 6 days ago

Cervical cancer remains a critical health issue in the Philippines, claiming the lives of at least 12 Filipino women daily. This type of cancer is the second most frequent among women aged 15 to 44, according to the Department of Health. This is why Hati Health is strongle advocating for awareness and wider accessibility to screening solutions to ensure that we all have access to screening solutions and preventative measures. Enhancing awareness, improving screening rates, and increasing vaccination coverage are essential steps in combating this disease.


The Role of HPV in Cervical Cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus transmitted through sexual contact, and certain high-risk strains are primarily responsible for cervical cancer. While most HPV infections resolve on their own, persistent infections can lead to cellular changes in the cervix, eventually progressing to cancer if not detected and treated early.


Cervical Cancer in the Philippines: The Current Landscape

The Philippines faces significant challenges in the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer:

  • Low Screening Rates: The country has one of the lowest screening rates globally, with only about 1% of women undergoing cancer screening. This is starkly low compared to other countries in the region, such as Cambodia and Myanmar, and even more so when compared to Malaysia and Thailand, which have screening rates of around 20%.



woman nurse
A pap smear test is a preventative screening test, to be performed at least annually for women.


  • HPV Vaccination: Despite the inclusion of HPV vaccination in the Department of Health's National Immunization Program in 2015, the Philippines ranks last among low-middle income countries in HPV program coverage. Only 23% of the target female population has received the first dose, and a mere 5% have completed the vaccination series. High vaccine costs and accessibility issues are significant barriers.



woman receiving vaccine
HPV vaccinations are lifesaving preventative tools. The vaccine is most effective to be performed before women are sexually active.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Early-stage cervical cancer is often asymptomatic, underscoring the importance of regular screening. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Post-intercourse, between periods, or post-menopause.

  • Unusual vaginal discharge: Watery, odorous, or containing blood.

  • Pelvic pain: Including pain during intercourse.

Advanced cervical cancer symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty urinating or bowel movements: Potentially with bleeding in the urine or from the rectum.

  • Backaches and abdominal pain

  • Fatigue


Screening and Prevention

Regular screening and vaccination are crucial in reducing cervical cancer incidence. The primary screening methods include:

  • Pap smear (Pap test): Detects precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix.

  • HPV test: Identifies the presence of the virus causing these cell changes.


Despite the availability of these tests, their utilization in the Philippines is low, primarily due to lack of funds, limited access to screening facilities, and fear of diagnosis. This fear often leads to patients seeking medical help only when the disease is in an advanced stage, reducing the chances of successful treatment.


How Hati Health can help

  • Increasing Screening Accessibility: you can now book your test easily directly from the Hati Health platform.



  • Enhancing HPV Vaccination Coverage: Reducing vaccine costs and increasing public awareness about the benefits of vaccination.

  • Education and Awareness: Addressing the fear of diagnosis through education campaigns highlighting the importance of early detection and treatment. As we work with different Employers and organizations, stay tuned for more of our awareness campaigns and initiatives.


Cervical cancer remains a significant health challenge in the Philippines, but it is preventable. Awareness and education about the link between HPV and cervical cancer, along with proactive health measures, can significantly reduce the incidence and impact of this disease.


 

Hati Health is a digital platform for women, providing on-demand access to products and services, including telehealth, symptom checking, holistic wellness plans and education.


We believe that being able to talk openly about women's healthcare and bringing appropriate solutions will inspire women to achieve their fullest potential in their personal and professional lives.

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