The March for Mother initiative marked Cervical Cancer Awareness Day, for the fifth time in the country, on the second Saturday of January.
The entire month of January is cervical cancer awareness month.
This year, a virtual discussion was arranged under the title "Know the Harmful Virus HPV [human papillomavirus]" on Saturday at 3pm as the first event of the month-long activities. Leading gynaecologists, cancer and public health experts, plus leaders of various volunteer and women's organisations took part in the discussion.
Gynaecologist Professor TA Chowdhury presided over the program where Dr Habibullah Talukdar Raskin conducted the discussion.
Professor Ashrafunnesa, chairman of the Department of Gynaecological Oncology at BSMMU; Professor Rokeya Anwar, head of Gynaecological Oncology Department at the National Cancer Institute and Dr Kashefa Khatun, associate professor of the Gynaecology Unit at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital; presented three articles on HPV and other cervical and non-cancerous health problems.
According to the latest report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer among women cancer patients in Bangladesh.
Each year, 8,068 new cases of cervical cancer occur in women, accounting for about 12% of female cancer patients; 5,214 patients die of it every year.
The speakers of the discussion emphasised two points. The first is that the emergency HPV vaccine for early prevention is not available in the country. The government, in collaboration with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, provided free vaccines to 33,000 adolescents in Gazipur district. After the evaluation of the pilot project, it was to be expanded across the country in phases – but no progress is visible in this regard so far.
The second point is that the cancer screening program, which is being run in about 400 government hospitals at various levels, is unorganised and hospital-centric. However, the National Cancer Screening Program under a National Cancer Control Plan – with emphasis on proper planning, implementation and evaluation – is now the demand of the time, which will be society based, organised and complete.
Former Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Bangladesh (OGSB) president Professor Raushan Ara Begum, current OGSB President Professor Samina Chowdhury, Chair of the Community Oncology Center Trust Professor Sabera Khatun, National General Secretary of OIWC Helen Manisha Sarkar, and Chair of Public Health Foundation Professor Sharmin Yasmin participated in the discussion.
Further, Mosarrat Sourav, executive director of the Cancer Prevention and Research Center; Professor Jannatul Ferdous Jonaki of BSMMU, Shirin Haque, head of the women's wing; Shahnaz Sharmin, chief reporter of Nagarik TV; Masud Karim, president of the Rotary Club of Dhaka Golden City; and Bazlur Rahman, head of the Tobacco Control Cell of Dhaka International University were also active in the discussion.
Speakers at the meeting expressed the view that the overall improvement of the cancer situation in the country is the responsibility of the government as well as the medical community, other stakeholders in the health system and people from all walks of life.
A programme to prevent cervical cancer, outside Dhaka, throughout the month of January was announced at the event.