Women urged to cooperate with cancer research project

Guyana Chronicle
March 1, 2003

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WOMEN who are sexually active are being urged to ensure that they have pap smears regularly so as to detect early, any signs of cancer of the cervix.

Pap smears can help to prevent cancer advancing to complex stages once done regularly and this in no way affects a woman's reproductive system.

Rather, if cancer of the cervix is not discovered early and matures to an advanced stage, this may result in a woman having hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). Thereafter, there is no way a woman would be able to bear any child or children.

The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs last year initiated a cancer research project in some communities in Regions One (Barima/Waini) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) after reports that a significant number of Amerindian were dying of the chronic disease.

However, according to Amerindian Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues, the project has not been receiving good response, especially from Region Nine.

She said it had targeted 250 people but only 90 persons have been tested so far.

Minister Rodrigues told GINA that the feedback is that the "men do not want their wives to have the pap smear" because they believe that it would influence the reproductive system of women in a negative way.

But according to Ms. Mitzy Campbell, First Vice President of the Guyana Cancer Society and a cancer survivor, pap smears have no effect on a woman's child bearing system and it "can save your life."

She said men need to understand the process, which lasts about 10 minutes and may be uncomfortable if the person being tested does not cooperate with the person taking the test. However, there are no side effects.

According to her, it is important for women to have the tests so that even if cancer of the cervix is identified and is in its early stage, it can be treated locally.

However, when it advances to higher stages chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be needed which are quite expensive and not available in Guyana. These therapies, she added do "take a toll" on the human system after a while.

Meanwhile, Minister Rodrigues is of the view that more education and promotion needs to be done in Amerindian villages on the importance of pap smears.

"We have to do something about it," she said, "and this is one way to prevent cancer."

According to her, all the Community Health Workers in the target areas were trained to take pap smears, yet the project has encountered some "unforeseen" setbacks.

Rodrigues is urging the women, particularly in Regions One and Nine to cooperate with her ministry and the Ministry of Health in the collaborative approach to identifying the extent of cancer among Amerindian women and to determine possible contributory factors.

She said women should see pap smears as a "routine" activity.

The Cancer Research project began around mid-last year with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY - GINA)

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