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Mar 20, 2014

Healthy Living looks at cervical cancer and screening

Cervical cancer continues to be the leading cancer related death among women in Belize. Over the years this has spurred several pap smear campaigns countrywide. According to Gynecologist & Oncologist, Dr Alba Mendez Sosa, even though she has seen a reduction of fifteen to twenty cases of cervical cancer per year due to basic prevention and screening activities; she still has to cope with the reality of young women, in one case as young as twenty-four, dying from cervical cancer. This is why she advocates for prevention methods like the HPV vaccine and screening like pap smears. Today she discusses the importance of the HPV test for women over thirty.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The human papillomavirus (HPV) test detects the presence of human papillomavirus, a virus that can lead to the development of genital warts, abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer.HPV is known to be main contributor to the development of cervical cancer in women.

 

Dr Alba Mendez Sosa, Gynecologist Obstetrician/Oncologist

Dr. Alba Mendez Sosa

“HPV test that is produced in a manner that do early detection of this type of virus in the cervical area of the woman. HPV test is a simple test that normally come in a fluid that diagnose HPV principally high risk type.”

 

An HPV test is conducted in the same manner as a pap smear. The difference is that the pap smear looks for abnormal cells while the HPV test – tests specifically for the virus. The HPV test is specifically recommended to women over 30.

 

Dr Alba Mendez Sosa

“Statistics estimate that after 3 years of sexual intercourse 85% of the woman have this type of infection. For this purpose we know that the most frequent age is between 20 & 30. And after this period of time in natural process our immune system can control it and clean. And it’s after 30 when you have any of these things that require a little more important and focus. I encourage all of the patients that are over 30 years to take the HPV test, because that really is the group that are a little more exposed. And that is the test that is recommended for this specifically type of patients. Normally it is recommended that the HPV test is done with the cytology test. If both of these test come in negative, it is recommended that this woman repeat neither pap smear, neither HPV in at least in 3 years time.”

 

Dr Mendez-Sosa stresses that due to the prevalence of HPV; the earliest form of prevention is the HPV vaccine for adolescents or teens.

 

Dr Alba Mendez Sosa

“Our women continue die from cervical cancer. And this is a condition that can be preventable almost 98% of the cases. Resources…technologies…so many things are in place…but for primary prevention…we can start with our kids and the vaccination. In general, all of the kids that are not sexually active, it is not at this moment, only girls for the purpose of cervical cancer. The focus is girls from 9 – 24 years that are not sexually active, that they receive the full benefit for the vaccine. 1950’s the US reduce the mortality cervical cancer rate almost 75% only with a pap smear. In countries that no have the facilities we can work perfectly with pap smears, but the recommendation is the same recommendation that we mention preciously that is a pap smear every year for 3 years. If 3 of them come back negative then we can start screening every 3 years. If have the facility or the patience have the possibilities to pay the HPV, definitely that we feel a little more comfortable that we say okay pap smear and HPV is negative.”

 

Cervical cancer is considered one of the few preventable & treatable type of cancer. Pap smears are widely available at clinics countrywide and NGOs like the BFLA. The HPV test and the HPV vaccine are also available in certain medical institutions in Belize.

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