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Guyana battling steep incidence of cervical cancer

Obstetrics and Gynaecology Resident Student, Dr. Narine Singh delivering a talk on cervical cancer at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church. Seated are L to R: GPHC’s Residency Director for the Obstetrics/ Gynaecology programme is Dr. Margaret Larkins Pettigrew and Assistant Director Dr. Ruth Derkenne

Guyana is continuing its fight against cervical cancer, which claims up to 100 lives annually, through vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) and early detection and treatment of cancerous cells.

Dr. Narine Singh, a resident student in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology specialisation programme being run by the Georgetown Public Hospital, told a public forum at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church, said between 80 to 100 persons die annually from the disease.obgyn doctors

“Sometimes, we cannot do anything for them because we get them too late or sometimes they are not diagnosed or even sometimes they were diagnosed and they needed the treatment but it was not available in Guyana,” he said.

He said a significant number of women with late-stage cervical cancer come from Amerindian communities. Singh said currently there are more than 80 patients enrolled for treatment, up from 14 a few years ago- a sign that public awareness about the disease is having an impact on more persons coming forward to be tested.

With HPV vaccination of girls between nine and 11 years old ongoing on the coastland and eventually in the interior, he expects that Guyana will eventually record fewer infections and deaths. “We wouldn’t see the impact of this vaccine until another two or three decades but it will be very useful,” he said.

The HPV vaccine is now part of the arsenal of vaccines being given to children

Experts say the incidence of cervical cancer in Guyana is double that in the Caribbean and Latin America and 10 times higher than in the United States.

cervicalfatimaGuyana has since established a special oncology unit at the Georgetown Public Hospital to treat those suffering from cervical cancer. “Prior to this, anybody who was diagnosed with cervical cancer had to wait on a specialist who was visiting or had to be referred to Trinidad or Barbados for treatment. Lots of time, they can’t afford it and they were sometimes left to phase out,” he said.

As part of the early cervical cancer detection programme, the Ministry of Health has been pushing Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) and pap smears.

The GPHC’s Residency Director for the Obstetrics/ Gynaecology programme is Dr. Margaret Larkins Pettigrew. She is an Associate Professor at the University Hospital, Case Western Medical Centre, Cleveland, Ohio. The Assistant Director is Dr. Ruth Derkenne of Australia.