Human Interest

Model’s fake death sparks dialogue on cervical cancer awareness in India

New Delhi, Feb 8 (EFE).- An Indian model’s staged death to raise awareness about cervical cancer continues to draw criticism, yet it has brought attention to the prevention and treatment of the disease in India, which has the highest number of cases in Asia.

Poonam Pandey, 32, who gained fame by promising to strip for the Indian cricket team if they won the 2011 World Cup, has defended the controversial stunt, deeming it “necessary.”

On Feb. 2, a statement was posted on her Instagram page announcing Pandey’s supposed demise due to cervical cancer, shocking her 1.3 million followers.

“This morning is a tough one for us. Deeply saddened to inform you that we have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer,” the post read. “Every living form that ever came in contact with her was met with pure love and kindness.”

Her management team also “confirmed” the news to media outlets, with her colleagues and co-stars grieving and posting tributes on social media.

A day later, Pandey shared a video on Instagram, revealing that she was alive and that the fake death was a publicity campaign to raise awareness about cervical cancer prevention and early detection.

“Yes, I faked my demise. Extreme, I know. But suddenly we all are talking about cervical cancer, aren’t we?” Pandey said in the corrigendum post. “I am proud of what my death news has been able to achieve.”

She emphasized in the video that, unlike some other cancers, cervical cancer is entirely preventable. “The key lies in the HPV vaccine and early detection tests. We have the means to ensure no one loses their life to this disease.”

Actor Dolly Sohi, known to be battling the disease, criticized Pandey for making light of the plight of those who suffer.

“This is a very sensitive topic, especially for people dealing with it,” Sohi told Zoom India, an entertainment news outlet. “How can you be insensitive just to get a little publicity? They are sick. They should see a psychiatrist.”

Oncologist Ashish Bakshi expressed his disapproval, calling Pandey’s stunt “outrageous and immature.”

“This should not have been done at all. There is no harm in raising awareness about cervical cancer. These kinds of stunts are something I don’t appreciate.”

He highlighted that many women in India suffer from cervical cancer. According to the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) 2020 estimates, cervical cancer ranks as the third most common cancer in India, with an incidence rate of 18.3 percent (123,907 cases), and the second leading cause of death, with a mortality rate of 9.1 percent.

A Lancet study in 2022 found that India accounts for the highest number of cervical cancer cases in Asia, followed by China. Out of the total deaths from cervical cancer, 23 percent occurred in India and 17 percent in China.

Bakshi said that the disease “is a potentially preventable and treatable cancer.”

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is caused by persistent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Women living with HIV are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer compared to women without HIV.

The UN health agency says prophylactic vaccination against HPV and screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions are effective ways to prevent cervical cancer and are very cost-effective. EFE

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