Friday, March 31

Cervical cancer can be prevented — ROSE Foundation director


Viji Nair

KUCHING: Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable diseases and can be prevented by a simple screening test, said ROSE (Removing Obstacles to Cervical Screening) Foundation director, Viji Nair.

“One of the most important new developments in cervical cancer prevention is HPV testing. Women no longer need to do a pap smear every year, they no longer need to see a doctor to have an uncomfortable speculum examination.

“ROSE programme combines Human Papillomavirus (HPV) testing with self-sampling and a mobile e-health system and under this method, women only need as few as two tests in their lifetime as opposed to 15 pap smears.

“In fact, Kuala Lumpur-based ROSE Programme, the first one ever held in this region, is designed for Malaysians with the concept of ‘Mesra Wanita’,” said Viji, who has been working with cancer NGOs for the last 10 years.

She was met after the launching of ROSE Foundation Programme by Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar at the State Youth and Sports Complex here yesterday.

She added the idea of designing this programme came from the understanding that many women may have difficulty travelling to the hospital due to financial and time constraints.

“They cannot afford to go to the clinic and wait for hours for a ‘preventive test’ when they feel well, only to be subjected to an embarrassing procedure especially for those who live in rural areas.

“It is also recognised that some do not know how to make an appointment and others are so afraid of hospitals that they just do not show up. This is where the ROSE Foundation comes in to help women navigate the system,” she said.

She said many women in Malaysia are still lacking education on how important screening is.

“They are mostly afraid of doing screening because of the traditional method of doing pap smear which is uncomfortable and lacks privacy.

“But, ROSE method actually allows them empowerment and privacy to do the screening themselves and what ROSE does is to give them swap and after doing it themselves, they give back to us, and we do the testing at our lab based at Universiti Malaya (UM Medical Centre),” she said.

At the moment, she said they are using the lab at Universiti Malaya until they have gotten their own and get accreditation for the lab, which is still under progress.

“We welcome funds as well as financial assistance from the government or the corporate sector. At the moment, we are getting funds from Takaful for targeting B40 community whose household income is RM5,000 and below. We are looking for funding from the private sector so that we can actually screen more and more women in Malaysia, not just B40 only but everybody,” she said.

ROSE statistics show that thus far, they have screened and did tests (self swap) for 2,300 patients since July 2019.

“The programme itself is not just about self swap, we register people on a platform, registry, and we actually communicate the result within three weeks through their mobile phone, and if a woman tested positive, we would tell her where to go and what to do for follow-up treatment.

“Technology data is very encouraging for ROSE project,” she said.