MOHW is hoping access to testing reduces cancer-related stigma
The Ministry of Health and Wellness reports that cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women in Belize, which is among the Caribbean countries with the highest mortality rate due to cervical cancer. Because cervical cancer is preventable through the HPV vaccine, the Ministry is hoping that more women get tested early so that they have a better chance of survival. However, one of the challenges women face is the stigma associated with the condition. The Ministry’s Doctor Natalia Largaespada-Beer spoke about this issue today.
Dr.Natalia Beer, Technical Advisor for Maternal and Child Health, Ministry of Health and Wellness: “Cervical cancer unfortunately in Belize like in other countries is stigmatized. So women who did not come early to get screened or who we did not reach to screen early fall into this group of women that develop the severe cases of cervical cancer that can lead to death but Doctor Coyi clearly explained that this is carrying this screening a bit earlier. Pap smear we are looking for changes meaning that the precancerous lesions or the cancer itself already created changes in the cervix that’s what the pap smear looks for. The VIA when we do the visual inspection of the cervix we see the changes for early or late stages of cancer but with the HPV test what we’re looking for is the HPV virus that 80% of the population may have HPV infection during the lifetime and this is men and women but you have some women that have persistent HPV that that is why the test is run in other countries and recommended by The WHO at 30 years but looking at our data we brought it down to 25 years. So if we pick up high risk HPV virus then those women need to get follow-up tests with the pap smear and the VIA remember those show changes and if the VIA or the pap smear is negative then it’s just that we need to follow up these women more closely. So it will be on an individual basis that this specialist would recommend the follow up scheme for this woman.”