November 13, 2017

The Bhutan Cancer Society (BCS) needs your help to provide cancer control services in prevention, treatment, palliative, and supportive care to nuns in Bhutan. According to the only cancer report in the country (2015), the number of cancer cases in Bhutan has been steadily increasing. Among women, the most common cancers are cervical and ovarian cancers together comprising 39% of cases, followed by stomach cancer (13%) and colorectal and breast cancers (6%). In Bhutan, the mortality rate from cervical cancer in women is 7.1 per 100,000, and the majority of cases are diagnosed in the later stage, resulting in higher mortality and poor treatment outcomes. Pap-smear testing in Bhutan is estimated at around 39% for women between ages 35–45 and much lower for those under 35 due to social and cultural barriers.

Rise of cancer cases in Bhutan from 2008 to 2014. 

The Problem

Nuns have very limited access to health information because of their religious commitments, and they generally do not proactively seek health services and, in particular, gynecological services. These barriers underscore the need not only to disseminate information on cancer and non-communicable disease prevention, but also to provide onsite health services and screening. There are approximately 1,037 nuns in 26 nunneries across the country, and they all have low access to targeted health intervention, in particular, to Pap-smear test and breast self-examination education. Given the low national uptake of Pap-smear testing and late detection of cervical cancer, it is critical to initiate intervention as quickly as possible.

The Solution

The Bhutan Cancer Society (BCS), a local public benefit organization, and a partner of the Bhutan Foundation, is planning an intensive outreach program to enhance access to cervical cancer screening and prevention advocacy for over 600 nuns in 10 nunneries in 5 districts in Bhutan (Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Bumthang, and Zhemgang). The project will be rolled out in collaboration with community health workers and the reproductive health program, Ministry of Health, Bhutan Nuns Foundation, and with technical support from the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences and the Bhutan Cancer Society.


This project will increase uptake of cancer screening services through pap smears for nuns in Bhutan, empower nuns on health issues to enhance health-seeking behaviors, and enhance access to non-communicable prevention services in nunneries. We also hope to strengthen the capacity of community health workers to reach out to nunneries for this behavior change and address the current cultural taboos.

Support Needed

The Bhutan Foundation in partnership with the Bhutan Cancer Society is seeking $5,000 to carry out this project from December 2017 to April 2018. Thanks to a generous donor, every dollar up to $5,000 will be matched!

Donate today to provide preventive health services to nuns across Bhutan!

Red location dots indicate the five districts where preventative health services will be provided to nuns.