AT LEAST 60 women die from cervical cancer every year in Fiji. This was revealed by the Ministry of Health yesterday during their receipt of three diathermy units from AusAID at the Fiji Pharmaceutical Services warehouse in Suva.
As the number one cause of death for women in Fiji, 120 women develop cervical cancer every year while three to four new cases are reported monthly.
According to the head of the MoH Wellness Unit, Dr Isimeli Tukana, an average of 450 cases of all cancer were reported annually from 2000 to 2011. He said this figure made cervical cancer the most common cancer among women — followed by breast cancer. Dr Tukana said their fear now centred on the late presentation of cervical cancer because they could not do anything with it.
"We want women to come for screening regularly because the number of cervical cancer cases in Fiji has created a lot of fear with the ministry," Dr Tukana said.
Dr Romanu Turaganiwai, acting consultant obstetrician at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital said three to four pregnant women who were diagnosed with the deadly disease did not survive after giving birth.
He said a lot of young women were dying because they came with advanced stages of cervical cancer. This, he said, was because they did not allow themselves to have Pap smear and screening.
"These are younger mothers with ages ranging from 23, 26 and 32 years old," Dr Turaganiwai said. He said the ministry was now emphasising family planning and providing postgraduate training to lower the number of deaths.
He said cervical cancer had become a burden for the ministry and a social burden for families because children lost their mothers.
Dr Tukana said from the large number of cervical cancer cases, it was possible to infer that a lot of young people were sexually active.
"Sexual activity is a big issue involving young people. If you are sexually active you should go for screening," he said.
The donated machines will allow the ministry to treat the disease in its early stage by removing the abnormal tissue around the cervix.
AusAID acting senior program manager, Margaret Vuiyasawa said countries like Australia had reported a decline in serious pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix in women through the use of these machines.
She said AusAID was committed to preventing cervical cancer in women in Fiji.
and they had so far provided routine screening to women as part of this commitment.
"Currently, Fiji has relatively sparse resources to deal with these patients," she said.