(MENAFN - Arab News) Currently around 2.2 percent of the female population in Saudi Arabia suffers from cervical cancer, according to an oncology expert in Riyadh yesterday.
Dr. Ismail Al-Badawi, section head of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Oncology at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh, was speaking at a media roundtable conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Riyadh to discuss the importance of vaccinations and how they work.
The event organized by MSD was arranged ahead of the EMRO Vaccination Week, which will take place throughout the region from April 24 to 30.
The week is dedicated to celebrating and promoting immunization for people of all ages through advocacy, education and communication activities.
The gynecologist said cervical cancer is the 11th most common cancer in Saudi Arabia amongst women in general and the eighth most common amongst women aged between 15 and 44.
"Whilst the actual prevalence of cervical cancer in comparison to other countries in the region is relatively low, the rates of mortality are extremely high," Al-Badawi said. In the Kingdom, some 3.4 percent were proven positive for every 100,000 cases.
For every 152 women diagnosed each year, he pointed out 55 will die. "Lack of public awareness plays a big role in these alarmingly high numbers, by simply creating a greater awareness of the need for vaccinating against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), this number could significantly be reduced," he added.
Al-Badawi said vaccinations against cervical cancer are given in three doses over a period of six months. "There are no side effects for this vaccination; it can be given to women from 12 to 26 years of age."
Saudi Arabia has a population of 6.51 million over the age of 15 who are at risk of HPV.
Dr. Adel Bashandi, MOH Business Unit Head of MSD, announced his company's support of EMRO Vaccination Week, to be launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean and partners.
EMRO Vaccination Week is meant to protect all people at risk against vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year, the theme of the EMRO Vaccination week is "Reaching Every Community." As part of this theme, he said MSD Saudi Arabia will be focusing on raising awareness of the HPV, several strains of which have been linked to cervical cancer. According to the WHO 2010 figures, as many as 152 Saudi Arabian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and of these women more than one third will die of the cancer.
According to the WHO, if the incidence rates of cervical cancer in Saudi Arabia remain the same, there will have been a 100 percent increase in the number of cancer cases among women under the age of 65 and a 120 percent increase among women over this age by 2025.
Highlighting the need for vaccination and the profound effect it can have on patients' quality of life, Dr. Sami Al-Hajjar, consultant for pediatric infectious diseases at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center in Riyadh, said: "Every year an estimated 2.5 million lives are saved, thanks to vaccinations, with many infectious diseases being completely eradicated by simply immunizing people."
"Vaccines have had a profound impact on public health. They have helped to prevent more than 30 common infectious diseases and helped avert long-term disability. The importance of vaccinating against diseases and the need for greater awareness should not be underestimated. Many diseases place a significant financial burden on the patient, their families, and the community at large, by raising awareness and encouraging people to get vaccinated against common diseases this burden could be significantly reduced," Al-Hajjar said.