Health officials in Barbados last evening launched an online petition they are hoping will require regional heads of government to “increase Caribbean women’s access to affordable cervical cancer screening”.
Speaking at the Chronic Disease Research Centre, Director of the CDRC, Professor Anselm Hennis highlighted the challenge in the region to address chronic non-communicable diseases and indicated that the CDRC “strongly supports efforts of the HCC and cancer societies in the region to increase awareness of cervical cancer, and make effective prevention of cervical cancer more readily available to Caribbean women”.
Dr. Vikash Chatrani, speaking on behalf of the BCS noted that every year approximately 31,700 women in Latin America and the Caribbean die from cervical cancer.
The Caribbean is among the top four highest sub-regions in the world with respect to incidence of cervical cancer and has the highest burden of human papillomavirus in the Americas.
“Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death in the Caribbean, with mortality rates higher than the developed countries such as the United States… To put this in perspective, this is something that is completely preventable.
“Ninety-five per cent of cervical cancer cases can be prevented. We wonder why it is affecting our women? Well it requires widespread awareness, increased screening and effective prevention and control,” he said.
Before the cancer developed, he explained that the cells of the cervix became abnormal, a condition that could be discovered and handled with effective screening and treatment.
Along with the pap smear, he noted that there was an HPV (human papillomavirus test and a visual inspection with acetic acid that could be used as screening methods to check for the presence of the cancer.
One of the simplest ways of controlling cervical cancer is the pap test, yet coverage rates across the Caribbean are unacceptable, with some countries reporting less than 20 per cent of screening average. Fifty per cent of Caribbean women with cervical cancer have never had a pap smear.
President of the National Organisation of Women, Marilyn Rice-Bowen heralded the project to bring the plight of many women to light.
She indicated that NOW “will play a very active role in mobilising Barbadian women to sign the petition which as far as I am aware is the first of its kind in the region”.
Rice-Bowen further stated that she would like to see every women in Barbados get access to a free/affordable prevention and control measures against cervical cancer. Access to health care is a basic human right.
Maisha Hutton, Manager of the HCC demonstrated the ease of signing the e-petition and indicated that it is a key part of the broader HCC programme that supports the PAHO Regional Strategy and Plan of Action for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control in Latin America and the Caribbean, approved at the 48th Directing Council of PAHO/WHO.
The e-petition, which the HCC is encouraging not only women but men as well to sign, can be found at www.endcervicalcancernow.org or through the Healthy Caribbean Coalition’s Facebook page, by clicking the link Cervical Cancer e-petition.
The form only requires the signatory’s name, email address, country, gender and age grouping, which manager of the HCC explained would allow them to track where the signatures were coming from and isolate the petitions country by country for presentation to governmental leaders. (LB)