By LARA PICKFORD GORDON Tuesday, September 7 2010
SEXUALLY active females, even those classified as “children”, should get screened as a precaution against cervical cancer.
According to Professor Kimlin Tam Ashing, Professor, Department of Population Sciences and Director of the Centre of Community Alliance for Research and Education, City of Hope US, screening should start among females 18 years-old. However, she qualified this statement saying it should take place at the time of sexual initiation.
“Unfortunately, that could be 12 or 14 so at that age if the child, she is a child, has begun sexual activity she really needs to be getting a pap test,” she said at the launch of the research study, “Role of Stigma in Cervical Cancer Screening in Trinidad and Tobago” at the Carlton Savannah. Among its aims is to identify the barriers to cervical cancer screening.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in TT and data from the National Cancer Registry indicated that cervical cancer is the second leading cancer among women. Breast cancer ranks first. The pap smear test can be done annually or more frequently depending on what is found in the cells. Cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is sexually transmitted and can cause cancerous cellular changes which affect the area at the opening of the uterus.
“It is one of the most common cancers among women globally, the second most common cancer in TT. It is a cancer which should have been eradicated 30 years ago with the pap smear test came into being but it is still with us”.
Ashing-Giwa said the pap smear test picked up cellular changes before they reached the cancerous stage. She said early detection in women in their 20’s and 30’s can prevent cancer developing even if HPV was detected. She said the pap test was still unacceptable and unaccessible to many women.
Ashing-Giwa said vaccines were available to prevent certain strains of HPV and one is being developed for men. She said there were precautions which can prevent HPV—delaying sexual initiation, early education of young girls, limiting the number of sexual partners and condom use.
Ashing-Giwa said women are often face the stigma associated with cervical cancer. She said some studies have shown that male partners blamed women for getting the disease. “She’s monogamous. He’s the one bringing the disease but because she’s the one who manifests the disease she is the tainted one. It’s important to look at the whole family in terms of preventing this disease.”
For the period January 2002 to December 2006, cervical cancer accounted for 12 percent of all cancer cases among females and was highest in the 40-44 and 45-49 age groups. Deaths were highest in females 45-49, 55-59, and 65-69.