By L. K. Hewlett

The Ministry of Health has joined with Sagicor Life Ltd., to raise awareness about cervical cancer and its prevention.

The goal of the cervical cancer campaign is to increase the number of eligible females having Pap Smears and to provide appropriate interventions for those needing diagnosis and treatment.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Elvis Newton, noted that the ministry was aware of the need to ensure the involvement and engagement of the private sector. To this end, Sagicor was invited to join with the ministry in providing funding for the promotional material on cervical cancer.

“With the support of the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) a needed analysis had been conducted in the Federation and it identified gaps in the delivery of service specific to cervical cancer. The study found that the Ministry of Health needed to provide women with information about issues relevant to cervical cancer,” Newton said.

Sagicor Branch Manager, Cedric Jeffers said his company is pleased at the prospect of collaborating with the Ministry of Health in this matter.

“It is important to prevent cervical and all other forms of cancer. The key to prevention is early detection,” he said. “It’s important for us to be involved in the promotional campaign. We are in the business of health care and have been since we started in 1840 under the name Barbados Mutual Life Insurance. If persons are sensitised about the prevention of cancer, the society and country on a whole will be much healthier.”

Cancer is a group of more than 100 different diseases and occurs when cells become abnormal and keep dividing and forming more cells without control or order. Cells divide to produce new cells only when the body needs them, and if cells keep dividing when not needed, it creates a mass of extra tissue called a ‘growth’ or tumour. Malignant or cancerous tumours invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.

Cervical cancer is believed to develop when two or more risk factors act together. Some risk factors include having sex before age 18, having many sexual partners, and smoking. Research shows that some sexually transmitted viruses can cause cells in the cervix to begin the series of changes that can lead to cancer.

Cervical cancer does not generally cause ‘symptoms’ and can go undetected unless a woman has a pelvic exam or Pap Smear. After cancerous cells invade nearby tissue, abnormal bleeding may occur.

Although Pap Smears are more popular, Colposcopy is a widely used method to check the cervix for abnormal areas. With this method, the doctor applies an iodine solution to the cervix and looks at it closely with a microscopic device called a colposcope; healthy cells turn brown while abnormal cells turn yellow or white. These procedures can be done in the doctor’s office.

Women diagnosed with cervical cancer are usually treated with radiation therapy such as chemotherapy, or they undergo surgery. Treatment methods depend on the location and size of the tumour, the stage of the disease, and the woman’s age and general health.