Addressing Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening in Uruguay | BGI Insight
The recently released BGI Genomics 2023 Global State of Cervical Cancer Awareness Report highlights the level of knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to cervical cancer screening and the human papillomavirus (HPV) on a global scale.
Dr. Deborah Laufer, a gynecologist specialized in Gynecological and Pediatric Endocrinology, offers her insights on this report's findings and the steps needed to improve cervical cancer awareness in Uruguay.
Q: 40% of respondents worldwide did not choose the HPV as the key cause of cervical cancer. 37% in Uruguay did not mention it either. What do you think this is due to?
Dr. Laufer: Undoubtedly, more education and awareness are needed in our country, mainly because cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women. Without understanding HPV causes cervical cancer, it is very hard to increase access to prevention, via vaccination or other screening methods.
Furthermore, I think that in our country, there is a more significant lack of information since the HPV vaccine was very controversial, which means less people are aware about the vaccine's benefits and, ultimately, about cervical cancer prevention.
Q: 21% of Uruguay respondents indicate HPV is not a sexually transmitted virus
Dr. Laufer: This data reveals a failure in our health system and sex education programs, not providing enough knowledge to the population that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. What strikes me the most is the low percentage of awareness, yet I observe that this lack of awareness is reflected worldwide.
Q: Fear of results (40%) and embarrassment of meeting a male doctor performing a Pap smear (39%) are the top reasons keeping women from undertaking cervical cancer screening. The absence of symptoms is 56% in Uruguay, way higher than the global average (42%).
Dr. Laufer: In Uruguay, Pap Smear is mandatory to obtain occupational health certification. This leads to the majority of the female working-age population taking the test. But they are not aware about cervical cancer prevention.
Public and educational policies should be implemented about the importance of primary prevention of cervical cancer as well as screening for early detection and not waiting for the appearance of symptoms to consult the gynecologist
Q: 27% of Uruguay women (versus 31% worldwide) never had a cervical cancer screening. What are the reasons for this gap in your country?
Dr. Laufer: Although pap smear coverage is required to work, and many Uruguayan women go for gynecological check-ups, a part of the population is left out of the formal labor and health system.
Caring for and educating this part of the population is crucial, seeking to understand the reasons why gynecological check-ups are not performed and motivating them to do so.
Unfortunately, we also have lost opportunities for women who attend the health system and still do not have screening tests performed. I estimate that the latter group is less than 27%.
Q: In Uruguay, 86% of respondents will choose the HPV DNA test over a pap smear upon learning about its higher accuracy. How do you interpret this data?
Dr. Laufer: This response shows that if women receive clear and proper information about each of the tests and their scope, they are better placed to make more informed decisions.
About BGI Genomics:
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