According to the ICO Information Centre on HPV and Cancer “Belize has a population of 122,603 women ages 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Current estimates indicate that every year 43 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 17 die from the disease.”
Cervical Cancer is one of the ONLY cancers that CAN be prevented with early detection. The most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes, and there are ways to stop this disease from developing. The first way is to find and treat pre-cancers before they become true cancers, and the second is to prevent the pre-cancers.
Identifying pre-cancerous changes is relatively easy, all you have to do is visit your nearest clinic and take a Pap Test (Pap Smear), if any pre-cancer is found, it can be treated, stopping cervical cancer in its tracks!
To prevent cancers and pre-cancers will take a bit more effort; like avoiding exposure to the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV), however, because HPV is one of the most common infections, this might be somewhat challenging. In fact, almost all sexually active persons will come in contact with HPV in their lifetime! So what other options do we have?
Well, if used correctly EVERY TIME you have sex, condoms can lower the HPV transmission rate by 70%, however, because condoms do not cover all possible areas, there is still a chance of getting an infection.
Another way to prevent cancers and pre-cancers is TO NOT SMOKE! For a woman with a high-risk HPV infection, smoking increases the risk of developing a cervical precancerous lesions. Smokers keep HPV cervical infections longer and are less likely to clear them, when compared to women who have never smoked.
Lastly, you can GET VACCINATED. The HPV vaccine is now available in Belize and these vaccines protect against infection with the HPV sub types most commonly linked to cancer, as well as some types that can cause anal and genital warts. The ministry of health has already rolled out their HPV Vaccine Campaign, targeting girls in Standard 5 across the country, however, if your’e not in this category and would like to get vaccinated, you can contact your nearest BFLA health provider for more information.
Remember Cervical Cancer IS PREVENTABLE. Let’s take care of our lady parts!