The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that every year 65 women in Solomon Islands are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 40 die from the disease. Solomon Islands has a population of 215,120 women ages 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in Solomon Islands and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age. Data is not yet available on the HPV burden in the general population of Solomon Islands.
But Deputy Secretary Health Improvement, Dr. Nemia Bainivalu says cervical cancer is preventable. He says early detection is very important to diagnose and prevent cancer and he encouraged women and girls to get regular checks for preventative measures. He says in addition, the Ministry of Health is also encouraging girls between the ages of 9 to 14 to get their HPV vaccinations. Bainivualu says this is also effective in reducing the risk of contracting the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) responsible for cervical cancer.
In 2021, the HPV Vaccination coverage was only 7 percent. This is fairly low and the Ministry of Health says more needs to be done.
“We encourage parents to allow their daughters between the ages of 9 – 14 to get their HPV vaccination to reduce the risk of cervical cancer”, Bainivalu said. He said the country can reduce the mortality rate of women and girls to cervical cancer if preventative steps are taken now to ensure women and girls live a longer life.
In September 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO), with funding from the European Union (EU), provided 17 thermal ablation devices to Area Health Centres in Honiara, Makira and other provinces.
Thermal ablation is a WHO-recommended procedure for treatment of cervical precancerous lesions – the damage or changes that may develop on a woman’s cervix that, if left untreated, could turn into cancer. A thermal ablation device, also known as a thermo-coagulator, is a portable, handheld and battery-operated device that uses heat to remove precancerous lesions in a fast, safe, and relatively pain-free way. This prevents the lesions from developing into cancer.
The Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is stepping up efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer. With support from local and international partners, MHMS is implementing multi-pronged measures to protect women and girls across the country from the life-threatening disease, providing human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for girls aged 9-14 years old; making screening and treatment available at provincial health centres; and educating and engaging communities.’
In a press statement during the handover, Health Permanent Secretary, Pauline McNeil says eliminating cervical cancer is a priority for the government as it is the second most common cancer among women in Solomon Islands.
“Due to the geographical and financial challenges that we face, the screen-and-treat approach is the best approach for Solomon Islands. A one stop shop where women who present to the health facility are seen, examined and treated at the same time before they go home,” PS McNeil said.
The Ministry of Health in Honiara during immunisation week this year, implemented a HPV Vaccination campaign for girls between the ages of 9 to 14 at White River Clinic. Previously, girls were expected to get two doses of the HPV vaccine before they are at least immunised against the Human Papillomavirus. Now they only need a single dose.
*This news was first broadcasted by Tavuli News in April 2023