Opinion: Push for preventive medicine in Phuket

PHUKET: We hope that Nora Galgoczy speaking openly about contracting the incredibly common sexually transmitted disease Human papillomavirus (HPV) and her subsequent battle with cervical cancer will inspire at least some of our readers to take a more proactive approach in preventing the life-threating or debilitating medical conditions out there that are largely preventable, thanks to modern medicine.

Over the years, Phuket has gained a reputation as an international medical hub. However, the focus of the services marketed to international patients has been on elective procedures, which can be offered here at a fraction of the costs incurred in their home countries.

In many cases, patients fly in to have these procedures done because their medical insurance back home simply will not cover them. These range from age-related procedures, such as hip replacement surgery, dental work and lens replacement, to more cosmetic work, such as breast implants and liposuction.

However, Ms Galgoczy’s case is an example of how Phuket’s relatively low-cost preventive medical services can also help save the lives of young and middle-aged people, at least those who are wise enough to make a modest investment in screening packages and other preventive measures available on the island – rather than squandering all their savings and risking their health by going ‘all in’ on Phuket’s vibrant nightlife.

Ms Galgoczy’s sensible decision to get tested for the HPV virus at the age of 29 was the single act that led to her beating cervical cancer. In about 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases, the cause is HPV, which can be contracted despite using condoms or avoiding penetration during sexual encounters. Most people reading this will have contracted HPV at least at one point if not many times during their lives. Certain strains of the virus have been linked to penile cancer, head and neck cancer, anal cancer, genital warts and a host of other serious conditions.

The good news is that an effective childhood vaccine against HPV is available at a very reasonable cost. Sadly, many parents fail to immunize their children before the onset of puberty, when it is most effective. Rather, many choose to buy their children electronic gadgets and high-sugar treats that put the kids’ future health and well-being at risk in ways too numerous to cite here.

Even sadder are parents are who fall for pseudo-scientific conspiracy theories, such as the completely discounted notion that ‘vaccines cause autism’, and put their children at risk by failing to immunize them against not only HPV, but a host of other potentially fatal diseases. Like any medical procedure, immunizations are not completely without risk. However, the benefits of getting children vaccinated against HPV far outweigh the risks and offer this young generation the possibility of a lifetime free of the HPV virus and all the serious health risks that go with it.

We hope more Phuket residents and tourists will take better advantage of the preventive medical procedures on offer here, for, as the old adage goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

— Phuket Gazette

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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