19 in 20 women ‘skip smear tests’ in Turkey

19 in 20 women ‘skip smear tests’ in Turkey

19 in 20 women ‘skip smear tests’ in Turkey

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Just one in 20 women in Turkey undergo cervical smear tests to determine cancer risks, according to a Turkish professor at the 11th Turkish-German Gynecological Congress, warning that the late detection of preventable cancers dramatically decreases the number of curable cases. 

Just 10 percent of Turkish women periodically undergo medical examinations at obstetricians and gynecologists, Professor Faruk Köse said during the four-day congress in Belek in the Mediterranean resort province of Antalya. 

The figure is worse for cervical cancer screenings, as only one in 20 women undergo a smear test, which is necessary to detect potentially pre-cancerous processes in the cervix, he said, stressing that such negligence can result in the appearance of cancer cases that could otherwise be cured with an early diagnosis. 

“Cervical cancer [Human papillomavirus (HPV)] has a vaccine, and it is possible to take precautions 15-20 years ahead of the disease with a smear test,” Köse said.

“It might sound ambitious to call it a ‘preventable cancer,’ but that is the truth,” he added, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) urged women to undergo screening for three types of cancer: cervical cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.

Men should also be vaccinated

The professor said the root of the problem was the HPV virus, a sexually transmitted virus which 80 percent of women are exposed to at some point in their lives, stressing that cervical cancer would disappear if men also guarded against HPV.

Underlining that the HPV virus disappears in most cases and leads to cervical cancer in just 1 to 3 percent of the cases, Köse said, “If the swamp is drained, cervical cancer will disappear.”

“Women get HPV from their partners. That’s why we recommend that boys also get vaccinated, alongside girls, when they are 11-12 years old,” he said.

Health minister urges caution

The congress in Antalya coincided with the “Ride for Women” tour, organized in cooperation with the European Society of Gynecological Oncology and Turkey’s Health Ministry, in which Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu pedaled alongside a group of cycling activists to raise awareness against cancers which affect women.

Echoing Köse, Müezzinoğlu said a third of all cancer cases could be prevented with an early diagnosis.

“We have control of over around 70 percent of the situation,” he said, underlining the necessity of raising awareness across all segments of society in order to combat cancer.