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May 30, 2019

Healthy Living Looks at a Screening Option for HPV

Last week, thousands of Belizeans participated in the ten mile cancer walk coordinated by the Belize Cancer Society. The activity had multiple purposes, including spreading awareness about the prevalence of cancer in Belize and encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Reducing the incidences of cancers in Belize also includes getting screened for the more prevalent form of cancers. Since the beginning of May, the Belize Family Life Association has been offering a new screening test that can aid in preventing cervical cancer. In tonight’s healthy living we find out more about the HPV test.


Dr. Cynthia Terry, Medical Director, BFLA/NHI

“Cervical cancer continues to be the second most common cancer in women in Belize and our incidents and mortality are still double than what is seen in Latin America and the Caribbean.”


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It is no secret that cervical cancer – one of the most preventable cancers – continues to rob many Belizean families of their mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. Over the years, there have been new screening tests introduced and more recently a preventative vaccine. Now, another screening option has become more accessible to women through the Belize Family Life Association.


Cynthia Terry

Dr. Cynthia Terry

“We’re introducing the Human Papilloma Virus test commonly known as HPV. It’s a test for fourteen high risk types of Human Papilloma Virus. We know this is important for cervical cancer prevention since this is the virus that is the causative agent of cervical cancer.”


To understand the significance of the test you must understand the link between the Human Papilloma Virus HPV and cervical cancer.


Dr. Cynthia Terry

“Most women we have about an eighty percent risk of being exposed to the HPV virus during our lifetime. But if we have an intact immune system then this virus will be cleared spontaneously. In women over thirty, if you still have HPV this is what we would call persistent HPV and these are the ones of concern because these are the ones that have capacity to cause changes to the cervix.  Pap smear and VIA test actually look for the symptoms related to HPV infections. So when we do the HPV test we are actually looking for the virus that is responsible for causing these changes.”


HPV is sexually transmitted. There are over one hundred types of the virus. The HPV test that B.F.L.A. offers looks for the fourteen high risk types. Currently there are two options for taking the test.


Dr. Cynthia Terry

“There two options the woman can actually do a provider collected sample or the woman can actually opt to do a self test. If its provider collected, she gets in the position like she’s doing a pap smear and a small brush is inserted by the cervix and a sample is collected. If its self collected then the woman is given a package with all the instructions on how to do this at home with the help of her partner or however she chooses and the sample can be dropped off at the clinic.  So person who actually test negative and you have an intact immune system meaning you are not HIV positive you can actually screen again in five years time compared to a pap smear where you would have to re-screen about three years time. If you have an HPV positive test it would mean that you need further screening. So these women are invited to come in and do a visual inspection with acetic acid if you test positive then you can be offered treatment.”


While the B.F.L.A. clinics are not the first to offer the test. They have acquired the equipment and training for technicians to offer the test at the lowest price tag in the country at promotional price of thirty-five dollars.


Dr. Cynthia Terry

“I think it is our responsibility to try to get the best tests available and make them accessible to women make them affordable for women and find a way to link them to treatment and I think that’s what the B.F.L.A. has been trying to do. It’s a very preventable cancer. I think if we all get together and we educate women on getting tested and not only getting tested but giving back timely results to women and linking this screening with treatment and encouraging vaccination in young women. Educating on safe practices – sexual practices. I think we can reduce our incidence of cervical cancer tremendously.”


The HPV test is available at B.F.L.A. centers in Belize City, Orange Walk, Belmopan, Dangriga and San Ignacio.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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