Apr 18, 2019 Last Updated 3:40 AM, Apr 9, 2019

LATE detection and late presentation contribute to the high number of women who die from cervical cancer in the Pacific each year.

The HPV Information Centre reports that an estimated 1,268 Pacific Island women died from cervical cancer last year. The rate of diagnosis and death is highest in Melanesia, followed by Polynesia and Micronesia.

“The fact that it is curable and yet still able to claim a lot of lives in Fiji, across the region and all around the world is really saddening,” said Pacific Society of Reproductive Health President, Dr Pushpa Nusair.

In Fiji, cervical cancer is the third main cause of mortality in women; the leading cause of cancer death among reproductive women; and the leading cause of mortality in all cancer types.

“The biggest problem that we have in Fiji and in all the Pacific is that women tend to present us in the very latest stages where we cannot do very much for them,” said Dr Nusair.

She said by that time, medical officers can only offer patients palliative care. 

Prevention and treatment of cervical cancer has been a stated priority of the Pacific Islands Forum for several years. Forum Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor has called it development issue, “albeit largely perceived as a women’s reproductive health issue.”

The World Health Organisation recommends vaccination against the cervical-cancer causing human papillomavirus (HPV) should be included in national immunisation programs, initially targeting girls 9-14 years of age, before extending to 9-18 years.

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AT least 747 new cases of people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have been diagnosed in Fiji since February last year. Jokapeci Tuberi, Regional Coordinator for HIV Stigma Index of the Fiji Network of People Living with HIV (FJN+1) says the number is expected to increase once the updated record is release from the Fiji Ministry of Health.

“With more aggressive public awareness and prevention campaigns, more people are coming out to have their status known to the public,” Tuberi said. From the month of January to October 2016, Fiji has a total of 43 newly-diagnosed HIV positive cases.

That is an average of more than four cases per month. There was also an increase in the number of new HIV infections, particularly among those between the ages of 19 and 29.

An overview report of People Living with HIV Stigma Index Study in seven countries in the Pacific indicated that Kiribati has 28 cases of people living with HIV, Samoa has 11, Federated States of Micronesia 9, Marshall Islands 8, Vanuatu 6, Palau 5 and Tonga 2. Tuberi said HIV cases in Kiribati was high because of the number of foreign fishing vessels that call on the island.

The report also found that people living with HIV in the Pacific Islands are experiencing high levels of stigma and discrimination, resulting in social exclusion and hindering access to basic social services including health care.

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Pacific’s health crisis

Non communicable diseases is prevalent in the Pacific that it has become a crisis- a matter which authorities need to address urgently. However talking about it to an audience doesn’t necessarily make one ‘all ears’ about it. In fact, the Pacific tops the ten countries in the world for overweight and obesity.

Pacific Island Forum leaders acknowledge that ‘NCDs already undermine social and economic development in the Pacific, and are financially unsustainable. NCDs impose increasingly large, yet often preventable financial costs on national budgets and the economy more broadly.

While “lifestyle choices” have often been regarded as the leading cause, Pacific Community Director General Colin Tukuitonga said calling them lifestyle diseases was wrong. He said it implied that people had a choice when, in fact, many Pacific people and especially children were “victims of their circumstances.”

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I cheated death twice

ASENA Senimoli survived two death experiences- her heart beat stopped, she felt the pain, slowly slipped away and was ready to go. But God saved her life those two times for a higher purpose.

Three years later, breast cancer survivor Senimoli looks back on life’s journey that has so far been truly interesting, blessed and fulfilling. In February 2009, Senimoli discovered a lump on her left breast. She showed no fear and visited a private consultant at Diyaz Health Centre for a check-up.

To her surprise, the doctor explained the lump was suspicious and probably cancerous. As a student of the Pacific Theological College pursuing a Bachelor Degree in Divinity, she did not want to be told she had cancer. But in 2010, her life changed when the doctors told her she only had five years to live. During that time, her hair was falling and her body hot. Senimoli needed was ice water to cool off. She was restless and the pain was overwhelming. 

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THEFIJIANS could expect an upgrade to their medical health services, in light of the new private hospital partnership between the MIOT International arm, one of India’s top hospitals and the BSP Life.

Under this new partnership, the Suva Private Hospital is now under a new management, with a new entity - Oceania Hospitals Proprietor Limited through MIOT (Madras Institute of Orthopedics and Traumatology) owning 30 per cent in the partnership, with BSP Life, who will continue to own 70 per cent.

The hype is generally around access to upgraded and specialised services and equipment, and specialised doctors in the medical field, that may have been lacking in Fiji. According to MIOT Pacific’s new medical director, Dr Ganesh Prasad (originally from India), said cardiac and gastrointestinal could be the key focus areas.

A pilot study is being run in order to determine the sort of patients that get drained into the hospital, and what sort of services they are after. “The lackness of those areas we would really like to try to fill in,” he said. “May be cardiac, may be gastrointestinal, may be lung related, intestine, kidney related – are some areas we’ll probably be looking at – depending on what is lacking.”

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