Nepal | April 25, 2019

Shame delaying diagnosis of cancer among women

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, December 28

Indu Shrestha, a 40-year-old woman from Mulpani, Kathmandu was diagnosed with uterine cancer two years ago. Subsequently, it spread to her spinal cord. Today she cites embarrassment as a huge factor that kept her from consulting the doctor although she knew her symptoms indicated serious health issues.

In Nepal, late diagnosis worryingly enough seem common. Female patients especially delay going to see a doctor about symptoms they have developed. “I have always lacked in self-care and hoped I would be able to recover. I couldn’t even share this with my husband as I was too embarrassed,” said Shrestha, who had been experiencing vaginal bleeding time and again.

She later developed back pain finally confided in her sister who suggested her go for a medical check-up. “I never sought treatment as I cringed just thinking of male doctors treating me for such an intimate problem,” she shares.

Likewise, Sujina Prajapati, 22, said she was unable to share her health problem with the male doctor as she was unmarried. When she finally did, it was too late, she was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer.

Dr Ishwor Shrestha, president of Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, rued that both married and unmarried women in the country hesitated going to the doctor’s for consultation as they dreaded undressing themselves for medical check-ups. He said, “Females from the village are shyer than those from the cities.”

In response, Nepal Cancer Relief Society has been organising several campaigns throughout the country. Not too long ago, Pap smear tests were run free of cost in the remote areas of Kathmandu, Siraha, Sunsari, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha, Makwanpur, Sarlahi and Chitwan.

Dr Shrestha said, “Judging by the results of the tests, it seems for every 100 women nearly two have cancer, especially married women.”

The campaign organised recently in Siraha, Sunsari, Sankhuwasabha, Danda Bazar, Rajarani, and Leguwa Bazar of Dhankuta, saw more than 3,000 women participate although most of them refused to have their breasts checked while some were unable to articulate their problems.

A version of this article appears in print on December 29, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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