Blurb from the author: Ask anyone who has had a Pap smear and watch them wince with painful memories. Even my uncomfortable first experience hesitated to go back.
It turns out there is a much better way to check your health.
The ROSE program, launched in early 2019, is an NGO dedicated to the self-regulation of Malaysian women between the ages of 30 and 49 in clinics across the country.
Do you remember your traditional Pap smear with the help of a speculum? The ROSE program has done away with all of this and introduced its own painless, quick swab test.
After you have smeared yourself in your clinics or events, the results will later be sent via mobile phone / photo credit: ROSE program
Since their introduction, they have successfully examined more than 8,000 women.
"These are predominantly women from the B40 category, for whom the household income is less than RM 5,000," said Dr. Woo, ROSE technical medical advisor.
What they found was that 5 out of 100 women examined would do abnormal screening tests and require follow-up screening.
4 Malaysian women had never done a cervical screening test before
Still the first of its kind
When it was launched in 2019, the ROSE program was not only the first of its kind in Malaysia. They were the first in the world to do what they did.
"What we're doing for the first time and different from everyone else is that the program integrates self-sampling, HPV DNA testing, and an e-health platform," said Dr. Woo
She added that the success of the ROSE program among Malaysian B40 women was due to the fact that the kit was a more personal way to get a sample.
"The importance of cervical screening is still very small in our country because it is uncomfortable and embarrassing to take Pap smears," she said.
Awareness is the key to providing safe and affordable health care for women / Image Credit: Program ROSE
Therefore, this was often avoided entirely. However, they focused their efforts on raising the necessary awareness in their target group of women.
This initially met with skepticism.
“As with any new innovation, there is some skepticism and there will be slow users. We just have to continuously engage and educate and dispel many myths, ”said Dr. Woo
Therefore, they expanded their efforts and held events in more than 6 states in Malaysia.
A screening event / Image Credit: ROSE program
“The feedback from women who chose the ROSE approach was all very positive. We keep getting feedback that more than 97% of our women think this approach is acceptable, ”continued Dr. Woo away.
One of her most recent efforts was the Give A Rose fundraising program, which allows non-B40 people to take the test and donate to the cause for a total fee of RM 250.
Everyone can actually do their screening test.
However, due to the strong emphasis on B40 women, ROSE is often addressed by other NGOs, healthcare providers and organizers who believe that accessible, affordable solutions for women should be a given right.
According to an interview with The Star, Dr. Woo that their official ROSE Foundation will run 6,000 self-sampling tests as part of a Etiqa Insurance and Takaful corporate social program.
This is in line with their initiative to work with several health clinics in Selangor to offer free screenings to women in the B40 group.
Since its inception, the ROSE program has offered more than just a simple test for women.
“Women with abnormal screening tests are guided through the aftercare process. They have a number and a real person to talk to (in the next steps), ”said Dr. Woo
“The ROSE program is a more holistic end-to-end program that does not simply end with the screening. We include follow-up calls to the women examined to the point where they did their colposcopy, ”she said.
The context requires a colposcopy procedure if a swab test is positive for HPV infection, although this may mean that a person has cervical cancer or not.
Regardless, a more thorough procedure is required to verify this.
When asked about the next steps for the ROSE program, Dr. Woo: "We will consider more strategies to reach more women and work with more partners to provide the ROSE screening test to the underserved population."
Bottom line: Although I am not yet in the high-risk group of women 30 years and older, I hope that ROSE will continue to exist for a long time, so that this will still be an accepted procedure in the next few years. Specula are too painful to endure.
Editor's note: In light of COVID-19, the ROSE program has temporarily suspended all cervical screening services in selected clinics, events and in their ROSE office. However, your hotline (03-84082211) is still active.
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Selected image source: ROSE program