Saint Lucia joins the rest of the world during the month of January in the observance of Cervical Health Awareness Month. The early detection of Cervical Cancer is critical and can save the lives of many women in Saint Lucia. Data published in 2018, the Caribbean reveals an estimated 4,200 new cervical cancer cases and 2,464 deaths. In Saint Lucia for the same period, we saw an estimated 15 new cases and 12 deaths. Cervical cancer is preventable; however, it is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among women worldwide. It is the second most prevalent form of cancer after breast cancer. Persistent and chronic exposure with the high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause for cancer of the cervix.
According to medical experts, cancer of the cervix takes many years to develop, however for persons who are immunocompromised, development of the cancer may be much sooner. The majority of deaths are preventable by maintaining good cervical health and adopting healthy and lifesaving practices and behaviors. Access to vaccines and cervical screening are the most cost-effective public health measures in maintaining good cervical health and reducing the physical, psychological and economic burden of cervical cancer among women.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs has an ongoing cervical cancer prevention and control program which includes education and HPV vaccines. Routine Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is important in reducing the progression of infections that can potentially lead to a more rapid progression of pre-cancer and cancer.
Routine and regular cervical screening is important, a pap smear, whether at the Wellness Centres during special community programmes, or with your private physician, is encouraged in addition to maintaining good sexual health and physical health. The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs will continue to strengthen the national cervical cancer prevention and control programme. However, it is the responsibility of all families and especially our girls and Saint Lucian women to take early action to prevent cervical cancer. Do your routine health checks and get your pap smear.