Cervical cancer is one of the greatest threats to women’s lives globally. With an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018, it ranks as the fourth most frequent cancer in women. In the South-East Asia region, it is the third most common type of cancer. Last year, there were an estimated 158,000 new cases and 95,766 cervical cancer-related deaths in the region alone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the countries in this region to speed up their efforts to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030. Thailand, one of the countries in the South-East Asia region, has made great strides towards eliminating the disease in the past two decades. Here are seven facts about cervical cancer in Thailand.
7 Facts About Cervical Cancer
- Twenty years ago, cervical cancer was the most common cancer for women in Thailand. Currently, it is the second most frequent cancer among women in Thailand behind only breast cancer. It is estimated that every year 8,622 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Thailand and that 5,015 die from the disease.
- According to amfAR, the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cervical cancer cases. This makes HPV the leading cause of cervical cancer among women in Thailand. Other factors that could cause cervical cancer are smoking, HIV and hormonal contraceptive use.
- In the last decade, cervical cancer in Thailand has seen the largest decline in incidence compared to the other four leading causes of cancer deaths for women. One can largely attribute this to the Safety, Acceptability, Feasibility and program implementation Effort (SAFE) which Thailand adopted in 2000.
- The SAFE approach is a single-visit method in which patients receive screening for cervical cancer and obtain treatment if necessary. This makes it cheaper than other screening methods since it does not require advanced equipment. The ease of implementation has seen 32 Thai provinces take up the SAFE approach.
- One reason the SAFE method yielded such great results was that nurses in the country were tasked with doing cryotherapy. This was important because, at the time, the ratio of doctors to patients was low at about one doctor per 60,000 people. As of 2018, that ratio had improved to one doctor per 2,000 people.
- In June 2018, the U.N. awarded Thailand with the UN Public Service Award for its initiative to provide cervical cancer treatment to women in rural areas.
- Another measure taken to prevent cervical cancer in Thailand is the provision of the HPV vaccine to girls aged between 10 and 13 years. Thailand is one of four countries in the South-East Asia region to have introduced the HPV vaccine nationally.
It is quite possible that Thailand will meet the WHO’s request to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030. The country is a good example to other low and middle-income countries on how they can deal with the disease.
– Sophia Wanyonyi