Nepal | May 25, 2020

Stigma around ovarian cancer keep women from seeking early treatment

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Kathmandu, February 19

It has been five years since Sarita Ghimire (name changed) started to try for a baby. Failing to conceive a baby, the 25-year-old from Gorkha went to a gynaecologist for a check-up. When the lab results came in, and much to Sarita’s distress, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While surgery was the only way to treat the cancer, it would put Sarita in a tough spot. It would end her dream of conceiving a baby. “The doctors said I cannot have a baby if I went ahead with the surgery. But I decided my life was more important, so my husband and I  decided to get the operation,” said Sarita.

In Nepal, prejudice against women who can’t bear children is so strong that many still believe that those women have committed a sin in their previous life. As this belief is firmly enmeshed in society, many women like Sarita fear that they would be outcast.

Twenty-eight-year-old Pushpa Shrestha (name changed) says there is the risk of husband marrying another woman in order to have a child. Pushpa, who suffered from ovarian cancer, says she couldn’t conceive a child after trying for four years. “I had vaginal bleeding every time after intercourse with my husband and was not able to conceive. So I decided to see a doctor and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” said Pushpa.

According to Prof Dr Achala Baidhya, chief gynecologist at Norvic Hospital, Kathmandu, ovarian cancer has a high occurrence among young women, especially in unmarried girls. But one of the symptoms is difficulty in having babies and many find it out after marriage here,” said Prof Dr Achala Baidhya Chief Gynecologist at Norvic Hospital, Kathmandu. She added that the main cause of ovarian and uterus cancer is heredity.

According to World Health Organisation, seven per cent of female cancer patients in Nepal died due to ovarian cancer and 18 per cent from cervical cancer. “If women come for regular check up, it can be prevented or detected at an early stage. If diagnosed early, there’s no need for surgery,” says Dr Baidhya.

A version of this article appears in print on February 20, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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