Guyanese are being urged to take advantage of the Ministry of Health’s cancer prevention efforts by utilising the services available so that lives can be saved.
After breast cancer,cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, while men are mostly affected by prostate cancer, however, stomach, colon, blood and other cancers also pose a challenge.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Narine Singh, speaking on a recent programme said the ministry has a three-pronged approach to fighting this disease.
These are to increase HPV vaccination uptake, early screening and early treatment.
However, there is a challenge as many are not taking the HPV vaccines which are now available for girls over 9 years to women up to 45 years of age.
“The uptake with the HPV programme has not been so good over the years because we have had a lot of vaccine hesitancy among the population, and this year in 2023, we will be relaunching the HPV vaccine, we are trying to actually incorporate it into part of the routine vaccination programme for school-aged children and also to push the uptake of HPV vaccine again because we know HPV vaccine works, it does help in the prevention of cervical cancer,” he said.
He noted that more VIA centres will be established in different parts of the country and more persons will be trained to conduct these screenings.
The third approach is to provide early treatment and care for persons who are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“We have the oncology unit at the Georgetown Public Hospital,we have radiotherapy for those who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, but we don’t want to reach to that stage, but sadly what we are seeing is that most of the persons who are detected with cervical cancer in Guyana are sometimes in the late stage, and this is so sad because cancer by itself is preventable, and also curable but once you detect it very early you can actually cure it and it can be treated,” he noted.
Women are being urged to get their first pap smear by age 21 and repeat every two to three years, while persons are also urged to do annual checkups.
Acting Director of the Chronic Diseases Unit, Dr Daniele Drepaul, noted that the burden of cancer in Guyana is 141.5 per 100,000.
She is urging persons to take measures to prevent cancer, such as avoiding the use of tobacco, staying active and adopting a healthy diet, among others.
“We urge persons to have a balanced diet, lots of fruits and vegetables that will provide fibre and aid in your digestion,” she noted.
Genetics can also play a role in the risk of cancer.
“If you have a genetic predisposition, maybe a first degree relative, maybe if my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer definitely, I should get screening at an early age just to make sure, you should do your self-examination at home but it is urged within a certain age you should start your screening,” Dr Drepaul said.
The Chronic Diseases Unit conducts screening for cervical, breast and some other types of cancers, however, other public health facilities offer more advanced services.
“You should go to your nearest facility if you have any complaints, you should explain it to your doctor and he or she will send you in accordance to what pathologies that they think you may have.
“We are urging persons who smoke who drink, I know it’s very hard to cut the habit but we have to try, I know we have certain programmes here at the ministry which we are trying to roll out which is a cessation programme which helps persons who are smoking to stop smoke, we know it’s a process,” she stated.
Guyana was ranked 25 in the world for cervical cancer prevalence with one of the highest incidences in the region. (Department of Public Information)