The Ministry of Health will be joining the rest of world to observe cervical cancer awareness month during January with the theme “Early Detection Saves Lives,” a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said.
Some of the activities the ministry has planned are a national week of screening for cervical cancer from January 14-18, 2013, partnering with several corporate entities including Qualfon, Republic Bank, GRA, Ashmins and Laparkan; followed by educational sessions in schools the next week and on January 23 a vigil will be held at Parliament Buildings.
GINA said that Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran reiterated the need for women who are sexually active to be screened so that they are aware of their health status. He added that hundreds of medical professionals have been trained to carry out the VIA screening method used to diagnose cervical cancer.
Visual Inspection Using Acetic Acid (VIA) is basically the use of table vinegar which when applied to the cervix causes a reaction that enables the medical personnel to carry out the diagnostics when viewing the cervix.
Minister Ramsaran pointed out that apart from the 18 service delivery points, the VIA service is being expanded through the medical outreach programme. He explained that use of the VIA allows women to be screened and treated in one visit when compared to other medical examinations such as a pap smear which may take some time for the test results to be issued.
According to GINA, Medex Zeta Alberts noted that Guyana has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the Latin American and western hemisphere hence the need for a robust screening and treatment programme.
GINA said that Medex Lurlene Ramsoondar who is attached to the VIA clinic at GPHC emphasized that cervical cancer is almost 100 percent preventable in this regard women between the ages of 20-49 years old are urged to do the screening.
She noted that apart from the VIA service, women can also have their genitals checked for STIs or warts and the abdomen can also be checked for fibroids for which referrals are made for further evaluations by an oncologist. She recalled that recently a team of medical professionals from the USA did several total hysterectomies.
Nurse Patricia Singh in acknowledging the importance of being screened for cervical cancer recognized that many women still do not understand what is VIA screening. Nevertheless, she is urging women to visit the VIA clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital to access the service being provided by friendly professionals.
Since the programme started in 2009, over 26,000 women were screened with 150 suspected cancer cases some of which were diagnosed by the gynaecology and oncology department and 2,500 women were tested positive and treated immediately, GINA added.