Child health doctors appeal to moms to protect their daughters

SINGAPORE - Singapore Paediatric Society (SPS) wants moms to prevent the one and only women's cancer they can save their young daughters from - cervical cancer.

They are appealing to moms to have their daighters undergo early HPV vaccination and regular Pap smear screening.

Cervical cancer kills 70 Singaporean women every year, and it is among the top 10 cancers among women here.

To encourage preventive screening and vaccination against the cancer, SPS has partnered GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to launch a public education campaign starting in May to launch Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, supported by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

The campaign will focus on moms protecting the dreams of their young adolescent daughters against the cancer through regular screening and vaccination.

"SPS is appealing to all moms in Singapore with lovely young daughters to please think afar of how a cervical cancer diagnosis can erase your dreams for your child and worst, their own dreams for themselves," said Professor Anne Goh, President of SPS.

The campaign will involve paediatricians educating moms on the cancer during clinic consultations, and cervical cancer public education messages appearing in popular lifestyle magazines and TV infomercials broadcasted.

Prof Goh said that research shows that the environment of an immature cervix of an adolescent female is more susceptible to HPV infection than that of an older woman.

While HPV infection can be acquired at any age, vaccinating girls at a younger age ensures they are protected against HPV infection early.

Research also shows that female adolescents between 10 to 14 years of age respond far better to HPV vaccination than older teens, roughly between the ages of 15 to 25 years of age.

Prof Goh stressed that SPS does not want to strike fear and alarm in the hearts of moms and daughters.

Prof Goh also lamented on how unfortunate it is that despite Medisave use being allowed for vaccination against cervical cancer, its take up rate remains low in Singapore.

She said this tells us that the mothers of young daughters are ignorant about the fact that this cancer is preventable.

Prof Goh said that because Singapore is an ageing population, the focus should be on prevention, rather than curing disease.

The best prevention of any disease is vaccination. For cervical cancer, it is a combination of Pap smear screening and vaccination.

It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of women will acquire an HPV infection - the human papilloma virus associated with the cervical cancer - in their lifetime.

Almost 50 per cent of these infections will be with a cancer-causing virus type.

Dr Shyamala Thilagaratnam, Director of the Healthy Ageing Division, Health Promotion Board, said that HPB has a national cervical cancer screening programme which encourages women aged 25 to 69 years who have had sex before to go for a Pap smear once every three years.

Subsidised screening is available at all polyclinics and at GP clinics participating in the Integrated Screening Programme.

Medisave can be used for HPV vaccination. However, the vaccine does not give 100 per cent protection against cervical cancer; therefore women who have been vaccinated should still continue to go for a Pap smear once every three years.