Pacific receives funding boost for cervical cancer research
The University of Hawaii's Cancer Center has received a US$6.6 million dollar grant, to aid research into cervical cancer in the Pacific.
The University of Hawaii's Cancer Center has received a US$6.6 million dollar grant for cervical cancer in the Pacific.
The federal grant supports an 11-year-old partnership between the cancer centre and the University of Guam.
The funding will also be used for increased cervical cancer screening in Hawaii and Guam, and to provide services in Guam to help betel nut chewers quit.
A Professor at the University of Hawaii's Cancer Center, Dr Neal Palafox spoke with Bridget Grace about why the Pacific has such high rates of cervical cancer.
NEAL PALAFOX: There's probably not a very high understanding of cervical cancer in general, there's not an understanding that it's treatable if it's caught early. Secondly there's a huge lack of access to screening technologies that have been available for quite a bit of time. And there's a lack of access to screening is because sometimes there's cultural issues around that, it's fairly invasive from a woman's standpoint. There's language barriers, and then even if you screen them sometimes the health systems aren't sophisticated enough to have proper follow-up and so sometimes it ends up that the cervical cancers get to the late stages. Then there is lack of access to the HPV or the cervical cancer vaccination so the cervical cancer vaccination has been around for a bit but the penetration and the rates of cervical cancer vaccine in young women and young adolescent males is very low in many of these areas. And probably lastly there's lack of access geographically, the islands are sometimes very far apart, sometimes there's no insurance, sometimes there's financial barriers as you can imagine. And again I just want to bring up that there's many cultural factors about the mores about anything that is perceived as, in the male's or the women's private areas, a lot of cultural mores surround that about having the correct permission and talking about that in terms that are sensitive to the culture, that have appropriate terminologies. Sometimes from finding the current words and the right tone and the right way to say, talk about cervical cancer is very different and more difficult. And also they don't have some of the words that we have in the English language that are very precise about cervix and cancer and so forth so there's a lot of language issues.
BRIDGET GRACE: In terms of those different challenges that you've mentioned, how's the funding going to be used to help in those areas?
NP: Firstly trying to understand how much cervical cancer there is, and then also which technologies can be successful for screening. Pap smears in the Pacific generally do not work very well, there's too many steps in it. You have to send it to a laboratory and they don't have these types of labs in certain parts of the Pacific. And then the third part is then to be able to explain to the populations about this screening, how it's done, and why it's important. And get them to buy in that this is an important matter for their health. And then it's also studying how to bridge all the access issues. How do you then get, if they don't have geographic access to the hospital, live too far and they don't have transportation, how do you get that to happen in some of these small islands.
Dr Neal Palafox is a Physician and Professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Hawaii and a Clinical Professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Centre.
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