The satisfaction of knowing their status and nipping cervical cancer in the bud if tested positive, was what drove many women of Rupununi, Region 9 to take advantage of a two-day screening and awareness exercise.
Carol Fiedtkou who lives at Tabatinga, a few villages away, was among the women who were screened through Pap smears when the Cancer Institute of Guyana (CIG) took its clinic to the Lethem Hospital last on September 8 and 9.
Fiedtkou learnt about the cancer camp through a notice posted at the shopping mall and did not want to miss the opportunity.
It took her half hour to walk to the clinic while lifting her two-year-old son, but she did not mind at all. She had left her four-year-old behind.
She told Stabroek News that she made the effort to attend the clinic because “it would help me to know my status so that I can take care of my health.”
She said too: “I am very happy they (team) came and I wish they would do it more often.
Other women would like to do it today (Friday) but they couldn’t make it.”
She, along with the other women, was grateful to the CIG for taking the camp to their community because she could not have afforded to travel to Georgetown to have it done.
Outreach Director at CIG, Dr. Syed Ghazi, told this newspaper that the camp was held in collaboration with the Healthy Caribbean Coalition.
This was done through a Memorandum of Understanding that the two entities had signed to implement further activities under the Healthy Caribbean Coalition’s Caribbean Civil Society Cervical Cancer Prevention Initiative (C4PI) – 2016.
Direct Aid Programme (DAP) of the Australian High Commission in Trinidad & Tobago funded the regional initiative.
The CIG has targeted low-income women living in remote areas of Guyana; Region 1 (Mabaruma, Moruca & Port Kaituma), Region 7 (Bartica), Region 8 (Mahdia) and Region 9 (Lethem, Rupununi).
The first day camp was organized for women living in outlying villages such as Annai and the second day was for women from surrounding villages.
Many of them learnt about the camp from the churches as well as other places where flyers were posted, such as the Guyana Bank for Trade & Industry Ltd., the gas stations and from the hospital and health centers.
A few weeks prior to the exercise, Dr. Ghazi and the General Manager of the CIG, Fiona Legall, visited the region and met with the administrator of the Lethem Hospital, health workers and toshaos and encouraged them to spread the word about the outreach.
Before the start of the clinic on both days, Dr. Ghazi informed the women about its purpose and the benefits of them being screened.
He explained that cervical cancer, which is caused by the HPV virus can be easily detected by Pap smear and once it is diagnosed early, can be treated effectively.
He urged them to go back to their communities and share the information with other women. He said CIG provides clinical evaluation, chemotherapy and radiation treatment and also follow up services for patients with malignant and certain benign diseases.
Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, Dr. Sayan Chakraborty, explained to the women that the procedure is simple and non-invasive.
He said it is tolerable and if any discomfort is felt it has to be weighed against the advantage of taking this test.
Justina La Rose, a farmer, traveled from Shulinab, located some 36 miles away by bus to get screened and know her status. The journey took her two hours because of the condition of the road.
Jaclyn Dyal said the campaign is a good initiative and she thanked the CIG for reaching out to women in the community because the service is not easily accessible.
She said too, that after reading the “handout” from the CIG, she noticed that a lot of women may be at risk of having cervical cancer and she thinks that the outreach was “timely.”
She also asked that in the future, the team should visit the other “health worker communities.”
Joan La Rose was also happy to be among the women who were being screened. She thanked the team for coming “on behalf of the Ladies Movement so that we can learn more about cancer. I would feel great if the test is negative.”
For Carmen Thomas, attending the clinic was because “I am concerned about my body. I think this is a very good step that is being done for women…”
She noted that by going to the clinic she learnt that “cancer at an early stage is curable, depending on which part of our body it is. So I think this is a good step.” She too appealed to the team to visit more outlying areas in the region.
According to Dr. Ghazi, “These are women who form the largest risk group in Guyana and it is very difficult for them to access health facilities where they can be tested.”
The target is to eliminate cervical cancer from the Caribbean by 2025. This is the second campaign that was run through the Government of Australia’s grant. The first was held in 2014 in Regions 1 and 10.