DOH calls for support to health campaigns in Bicol this month

LEGAZPI CITY – Twelve Filipino women die from cervical cancer everyday despite of it being preventable through vaccination and screening, said a Bicolana obstetrician-gynecologist during the briefing on the activities and advocacy for health celebrations and observances this month led by the regional office of Department of Health (DOH).

Cervical cancer awareness is one of six official public health campaigns marked this month by the DOH, along with hypertension awareness, road safety, Safe Motherhood Week, AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day, and World No Tobacco Day.

Physician Rona Rañola presented an overview on cervical cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipinos, in which two in every three Filipino women diagnosed with it may die within five years.

“Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) transmitted through genital skin to skin contact,” Rañola said. “Condoms may not offer full protection.”

According to Rañola, women, aged 35 and above and who are sexually active or had history of sexual contacts are vulnerably exposed to cancer-causing HPV, which are oftentimes diagnosed on its late stage as it does not show symptoms on its early stages.

“It may take 10 -15 years for cervical cancer to develop and oftentimes the patient is already on the last stages where symptoms show such as abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding,” she said.

To avoid cervical cancer, Rañola advised women to observe “responsible sexual behavior such as sexual abstinence or monogamy.”

Besides proper conduct, she said that one can prevent cervical cancer by submitting herself to vaccination and regular screening, either through pap smear or visual inspection using active acid wash.

Women in Bicol can avail themselves of these services at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital.

On the other hand, DOH Regional Assistant  Director Ernie V. Vera likewise calls for public support not only to cervical cancer awareness but also to other health campaigns that are observed this month.

On top of Vera’s list was road safety considering the statistics that most cases of road accidents are recorded during summer.

DOH Bicol Family Health Center nurse Dave Ploponio underscored the programs and services of the DOH and other implementing partners in the region to promote maternal health and nutrition as part of the Safe Motherhood Week on May 10-14.

Ploponio attributed the drop in maternal deaths in Bicol from 150 in 2015 to 115 in 2016 to the campaign for mothers to undergo consultation before, during and after pregnancy.

Maternal deaths are recorded per 100,000 live births.

“Although maternal deaths in Bicol have significantly decreased it is still unacceptably high compared with the target set for the sustainable development goals,” he said.

To mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day on May 21, free testing and counseling for HIV and other sexually related diseases will be conducted at Daraga municipal hygiene clinics, according to DOH regional cluster program coordinator Jannish Arellano.

To Arellano, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day is much more than just a memorial.

She stressed that the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS.

Arellano sounded the alarm that despite intensified information campaign and availability of services, HIV cases in the region remain going up.

“In February this year, 42 cases were recorded with Camarines Sur having the highest number of cases at 14, followed by Albay with 10 cases,” she said.

For World No Tobacco Day on May 31, Arellano cited the Graphic Health Warning Act as an effective medium to instill health consciousness through graphic health warnings on tobacco products.

World No Tobacco Day is observed to encourage broader public and partner participation in national, regional and global efforts to develop and implement development strategies and plans and achieve goals that prioritize action on tobacco control.(by Sally Atento-Altea, PIA)