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Study results spell crisis

Priya Chand
Saturday, February 02, 2013

FIJI has the highest incidence of cervical cancer in the region and also considered high by global standards with the rate of 39.5/100,000 women.

This was revealed during the presentation of results of the pilot project of Visual Inspection with acetic acid (VIA)/Cryo for the screening of cervical cancer yesterday.

Deputy secretary hospital services of the Ministry of Health (MOH) Dr Meciusela Tuicakau said this was in fact a crisis.

"We must all strengthen our commitment and partnership in reducing the burden of cervical cancer," said Dr Tuicakau.

"The peak incidence is between 45 to 55 years of age thus, the presence of precursor lesions in women 10 years younger is a grave concern given that many will have young families," he said.

The pilot project was funded by AusAID, NSW Family Planning Association and conducted by the Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) in partnership with the Reproductive Health Family Planning Fiji (RHFP) and the health ministry.

The aim was to conduct a pilot study testing the feasibility of one visit for cervical screening with VIA and treatment of non-referrable abnormalities for women aged between 30 to 50 in Korovou and Makoi.

Project manager Karolina Tamani from the FNA said because of the popularity of VIA, a new model of cervical cancer screening through the usage of acitic acid/vinegar, more women turned up for the screening.

"Altogether, 2562 VIA were performed and 237 were found positive with aceto-white lesions," said Ms Tamani.

"Most of them underwent cryotherapy for pre-cancer changes while those who did not qualify were sent to the gynecology clinic at Colonial War Memorial Hospital," said Ms Tamani.

She said out of those, four had cancer, 22 were pre-cancer changes, and the rest had other conditions not related to cancer. She said for a small developing country like Fiji, four was a number to be concerned about as the project was just within two areas and also the fact that many were found with positive aceto-white lesions.

Dr Tuicakau said not only was Fiji leading with the rate of cervical cancer in the region, but that it had been one of the leading causes of death for women not only in Fiji but worldwide.

"In Fiji, in the Ministry of Health's annual report 2011, 233 cases of cervical cancer were recorded and makes it the number one cancer among females," said Dr Tuicakau.

Ms Tamani said this was a grave concern and the major reason stakeholders came together to discuss how to deal with the crucial issue after the successful completion of the one-year pilot project.

The advantage with VIA is that the results of the test are given the same time as opposed to pap smear, which takes nearly six weeks and is more expensive in terms of technology. However, the VIA is to complement the existing pap smear program.

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