MOST women in Fiji are diagnosed with cervical cancer around the age of 50 years and usually survive for six months only, the Ministry of Health has revealed.
And all sexually-active women are at risk of contracting the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) regardless of their ethnicity, traditional role or culture.
Deputy secretary of public health Doctor Josefa Koroivueta said studies showed 80 per cent of sexually-active men and women would have been exposed to a type of HP virus at some point of their lives.
He said women needed to go for Pap smear screening every three years to check if they had been exposed to HPV which caused 70 to 80 per cent of cervical cancer in Fiji.
"With regular Pap smear screening changes to the cervix can be detected early and treated before they turn into cancer," Dr Koroivueta said.
He said the main reason women did not go for screening was the fear of the unknown, which was common everywhere in the world; in addition such services may be unknown by the general community.
"Most women will clear the virus and not even know they have it," Dr Koroivueta said.
"Some women, however, will not clear the virus and this could lead to changes in their cervix."
He said if these changes were detected early by a Pap smear, they could be successfully treated.
"Cervical cancer is very difficult to treat and most women will die from it," he said.