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The Revolutionary Programme R.O.S.E. is set to accelerate drive towards the elimination of ‘Cervical Cancer’ in Malaysia

Every two minutes, a woman dies of cervical cancer somewhere in the world. In Malaysia, the disease is one of the three most common cancers affecting women, striking them in the prime of their lives.  One of the main reasons is the poor rate of cervical screening due to fear, embarrassment and discomfort associated with the Pap smear test.  Tragically, many cases of cervical cancer go undetected until it is too late.  But it does not have to be this way.

Programme R.O.S.E. (Removing Obstacles to Cervical ScrEening), is a revolutionary approach developed by University of Malaya in collaboration with VCS Foundation of Australia.  It entails self-sampling by women, HPV DNA testing, and an e-health platform that empowers women to register and receive results through their smartphones.  This integrated system will be the first of its kind in the world and a true game changer in the fight against cervical cancer.  It will be Malaysia’s answer to the World Health Organisation’s call for global action to eliminate cervical cancer.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah Dr Wan Ismail launched this revolutionary programme ROSE today (14 January 2019) with a signing of an MoU between Universiti Malaysia and VCS Foundation of Australia. The ROSE programme has been recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Union for International Cancer Control, International Papillomavirus Society, National Cancer Institute of the US and International Federation of Gynaecology & Obstetrics.

To date, no country has implemented a programme like ROSE incorporating the three components of self-sampling, HPV testing and a digital platform that securely monitors the entire screening journey of women through an integrated system. Malaysia will be the first in the world and a model for other countries to follow.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women worldwide. About four in five cases occur in developing countries where it is the most prevalent female cancer and the most frequent cancer-related cause of death among women

Soon, more women in Malaysia will be willing to come forward for cervical cancer screening, a life-saving decision which will enable the detection and treatment of the disease in its earliest stages.

ROSE programme entails self-sampling by women, HPV DNA testing, and an e-health platform that empowers women to register and receive results through their smartphones.

This would be a sharp contrast from the current situation, where most women are refusing to be screened due to the fear, embarrassment and discomfort associated with Pap tests. According to the Ministry of Health Malaysia reports, an average of only 25% of eligible women undertook Pap tests between 2013 and 2017.

This low uptake rate explains why many Malaysian women are dying from cervical cancer, which is the third most common cancer among women in Malaysia, with 3 out of 4 patients diagnosed with the disease aged less then 64 years. This is unacceptable because cervical cancer is preventable and when early changes are detected, effective treatment is available.

The HPV test is evidence-based and highly accurate, providing greater reassurance to women and their families. The diagnostic accuracy allows for significantly less frequest testing over a women’s lifetime.

According to the head of the ROSE pilot programme, Prof. Woo Yin Ling, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist at Universiti Malaya, the pilot project found that 99% of the 4,188 participants preferred the self-sampling method. Abnormal test results were detected in 5%, and 3 cases of cancer were diagnosed and had the appropriate follow-up. The mobile technology and e-health facilitated comprehensive follow through of the ‘screening to treatment’ pathway in the women.

The studies also found a high level of engagement with ROSE model among participating healthcare professionals. They were very encouraged by its potential to increase. Prof. Woo says, “The results confirm that ROSE is the right solution for strengthening our national cervical cancer screening programme.”

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