Chimi Dema | Tsirang

Kinley Dema from Barshong, Tsirang, had her last Pap smear test about three years ago.

Without women officials in the nearby Primary Health Centre (PHC), Kinley Dema does her regular screening for cervical cancer at the dzongkhag hospital in Damphu.

This year, however, she couldn’t do it, as she chose to stay home owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

“Moreover, the hospital is far,” she said.

Dzongkhag health officials said that had it not been for the pandemic and lockdowns, the hospital could have achieved hundred percent Pap smear coverage in the dzongkhag.

The hospital screened a total of 463 women, including 83 new for cervical cancer cases last year. In 2019, about 985 women were screened for cervical cancer.

Close to 300 women from Mendrelgang, Barshong, Sergithang and Patshaling gewogs underwent Pap smear test during the screening camp.

Of the total screened, 10 were referred for gynaecology consultations in Thimphu and Gelephu.

A total of 372 women who underwent Pap smear test in the hospital were detected with various vaginal infections such as inflammation, bacterial vaginosis, candida species and trichomona vaginalis.

A total of 16 women had abnormal cervical cancer screening results, including one with low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL) with human papillomavirus infection (HPV).  However, none had carcinoma. A carcinoma is a malignant tumor which tends to grow worse on or inside the body.

The hospital officials said that the presence of carcinoma in a body confirms cancer.

In Semjong gewog, the senior health assistant with the PHC, Tashi Norbu  said that a few women turned out for weekly screening.

The hospital saw 49 women coming for screening in January this year. An average of 15 women are screened for cervical cancer in a week.

With 2,440 new cases screened since 2004 to 2019, the hospital achieved 93.70 percent of Pap smear coverage in 2019.

Cervical cancer claimed nine lives in 2019, according to the annual health bulletin 2020.

The senior dzongkhag health officer, Kinley, said that it was important for women to get screened for early detection of cervical cancer and receive timely treatment and management.

“We have been providing pap smear services to reduce cervical cancer cases and mortality in the dzongkhag,” he said. “We have been conducting a pap smear campaign every year to reach the unreached communities and also to provide HPV vaccines to children of 12 years old and above.”