Cervical cancer ranks fourth, early detection crucial - Specialist

Malaysian doctor urges women to get cervical cancer screening

24 Feb 2024 08:02am
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo by 123RF
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo by 123RF

KUALA LUMPUR - It is critically important for Malaysian women to undergo early cervical cancer screening, as early detection is paramount in the fight against such cancer, says Dr Thangesweran Ayakannu, a Consultant Gynaecology, Oncology and Robotic Surgeon at Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City.

He said regular screenings empower women to take control of their health, allowing them to identify potential issues in their infancy.

"In Malaysia, where cultural nuances sometimes hinder open discussions about women's health, breaking these taboos and embracing early screening is a pivotal step. It improves treatment outcomes and transforms the narrative around women's well-being.

"By fostering awareness and encouraging proactive health-seeking behaviours, we can collectively move towards a future where cervical cancer is not just treatable but preventable.

"Prevention involves detecting cell changes early through HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines, regular pelvic exams, HPV DNA tests every four years and pap smears every three years. Late-stage diagnoses, preventable with these measures, are something we aim to avoid,” he said in a statement to Bernama.

He said in the realm of women's health, the importance of early detection and regular screening cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is a silent threat that affects women worldwide, but early detection holds the key to successful treatment and improved outcomes, he said.

Dr Thangesweran highlighted the prevalence of gynaecological cancers in Malaysia, stating that cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most frequent cancer among women and the second most frequent cancer affecting women aged 44 and below.

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He emphasised the importance of shedding light on proactive health measures, breaking taboos, and embracing regular screenings in response to this concerning finding.

He highlighted three primary gynaecological cancers, namely uterine cancer, cervical cancer and ovarian cancer.

Despite cervical cancer being a common form of gynaecological cancer in Malaysia, with 12.9 per cent of female cancers attributed to it, there has been a concerning rise in uterine cancer cases.

Dr Thangesweran attributed this increase to hormonal imbalances resulting from obesity, which is correlated with rising obesity rates in the country.

The doctor also emphasised the role of HPV in causing cervical cancer, highlighting the importance of HPV vaccination as a preventative measure.

He stressed that while HPV vaccines are effective in lowering the risk by targeting dangerous strains of the virus, they should not replace pap smears as a proven method of gynaecological cancer screening.

Dr Thangesweran acknowledged concerns regarding the increased cancer risks associated with fertility treatments, particularly those involving ovary-stimulating drugs, emphasising the importance of close monitoring through ultrasounds and blood tests for women undergoing or who have undergone such treatments.

"Infertility treatment has been found to be an important risk factor for ovarian cancer. However, the association between infertility drugs and ovarian cancer needs to be addressed with consideration of other factors such as age, body mass index, parity, genetic factors (i.e. family history for ovarian cancer), and aetiology of infertility, along with longer follow-up times,” he said.

Dr Thangesweran shared valuable insights on proactive health management for women, including understanding one's body, clear communication with healthcare professionals, and recognising symptoms and risk factors. He advised regular pelvic examinations and emphasised the importance of early detection through risk assessment and screening methods such as robotic surgery.

He stressed the importance of addressing long-term conditions like PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and endometriosis, which predispose women to gynaecological cancers.

He urged women to monitor their periods and undergo regular checkups, including ultrasound scans, to ensure early detection and effective management of their well-being.

"Early detection is not just an option but a shared responsibility. By breaking taboos and fostering a culture of awareness, we pave the way for a future where cervical cancer is not just treatable but preventable,” he added. - BERNAMA