PHNOM PENH —
Around 1,000 Cambodian youth joined together in a conference on cervical cancer last week, part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the disease in Cambodia.
Hav Monirath, the campaign coordinator for Calmette Hospital, said the initiative has organized training and workshops at schools, universities and communities across the country, increasing understanding of cervical cancer, one of the country’s top killers.
“The youth have also initiatiated other activities to draw attention to the public to understand and prevent cancer, ranging from public dancing and performances to bicycling,” he said.
Cervical cancer develops from a virus call human papillomavirus, or HPV, and is made more prevalent by poor sanitation.
Worldwide, cervical cancer kills some 250,000 women per year, 85 percent of whom live in low- or middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.
In Cambodia, an estimated 4,000 women develop the disease each year; 60 percent of them do not survive it. Cambodia has the highest rate of the cancer in Asean, said Eav Sokha, head of Calmette’s cancer department.
In Cambodia, the average age of developing the disease is 51, compared to a global average age of 70, he said. “So what does that mean? It means Cambodian women infected by the disease are at a young age, who can still potentially contribute to the economy.”
Health experts say girls and women between the ages of 10 and 26 should get an HPV vaccine. Women engaging in sexual intercourse should get tested for the virus every three years.
Kou Sotheavy, a 23-year-old university student who attended last week’s conference, said she had learned much about the cancer and its prevention.
“I will spread the message to my family and female friends, and hopefully they will spread [the message],” she said.