Bikers raise awareness for the fight against cervical cancer

Bikers raise awareness for the fight against cervical cancer
By Walter Ang
June 16, 2009
Manila Bulletin

More than forty bikers completed a 500 kilometer tour that started in Alabang, Muntinlupa City and ended in Camarines Sur to raise awareness and funds for the fight against cervical cancer. The tour, titled "The Tour of Hope 2009: XXX Dare to Be Bold!" is on its second year and was able to raise over half a million pesos. All proceeds benefit the Cervical Cancer Prevention Network Program (Cecap).

Pledges were gathered for every kilometer ridden by bikers that included volunteers from David's Salon (the Philippine's first all-women multi-sport team), Polo Tri, and Candon. Noted personalities included interior designer Tessa Prieto-Valdez and husband-and-wife sports enthusiasts Ernie and Geena Lopez, who is a champion wakeboarder. The first Tour of Hope in the Philippines was held last year with a route that started in Vigan and ended in Subic with more than P300,000 raised.

Cervical cancer is the second most common women's cancer worldwide, with 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths reported each year. Over 80% of cases occur in developing countries like the Philippines where it is ranked as the second most common cancer afflicting Filipino women. Every two minutes, one woman dies of cervical cancer around the world. In the Philippines, ten women die every day of this disease.

Cecap brings together health organizations, both in the government and private sectors, and other concerned local and international groups, in a concerted effort to eradicate cervical cancer. Cecap uses a comprehensive approach in combating this disease: advocating proper education about prevention through healthy living and providing quality cervical cancer services such as research, vaccination, counseling, screening, and treatment.

The tour aims to let more women know that cervical cancer is actually preventable through vaccination and treatable if diagnosed early. To this end, Cecap doctors conducted lay lectures at all the tour stops, namely, Tagaytay, Lipa, Lucena, Daet, Camarines Norte, Naga, and Camarines Sur. This year scored over 1,000 total attendees to its lectures.

Cecap advocates vaccination against cervical cancer. Studies have shown that one of the causes of cervical cancer are certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccination options are available like GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix vaccine which provides at least six and a half years' worth of protection for women against the two most common cancer-causing HPV strains (HPV types 16 and 18) and twelve other cancer-causing HPV strains. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for over 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in Asia Pacific.

Oncologist-gynecologist Dr. Cecilia Ladines-Llave, Cecap director and UP-PGH Cancer Institute chair, stressed that a woman who is not screened for cervical cancer is five times at risk for developing this disease.

Part of Cecap's efforts also goes toward supervising cervical cancer screenings throughout the Philippines by using the "Single Visit Approach." This method combines counseling, screening and treatment in just one visit to the doctor and is geared towards women from rural areas that may not have ready access to healthcare.

Unlike women living in urban areas who have more access to cervical cancer screening tests such as Pap smears, this method uses vinegar to detect precancerous lesions on the cervix. If necessary, treatment can be done by freezing the lesions (using a liquid coolant like carbon dioxide), effectively eliminating the abnormality and preventing possible progression to cancer.

Cecap is a program of the Cancer Institute Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit organization that supports the Cancer Institute of the Philippine General Hospital. A major proponent of the tour is Bravehearts, a multi-sectoral coalition led by CIF. To help raise awareness, Bravehearts publishes a monthly journal and conducts lectures. Bravehearts is currently supported by a growing number of women, including prominent personalities such as Sen. Loren Legarda, Rina Jimenez David, Ellen Tordesillas, Atty.Gaby Concepcion, and Suzi Entrata.

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