Cervical Cancer Remains Common Killer of Women in Haiti

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix, it commonly occurs in women over the age of 30 when usually some abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control which never die but continue to grow through cell division. It occurs by a group of virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV, through sexual contact, but can be successfully treated if it is identified and taken care of early. Cervical cancer is one of the main causes of cancer deaths in the world with a 50% mortality rate all around the world. It is also known as the 'disease of poverty' as it is more prevalent among the poor; 85% of cervical cancer occurs in the developing world alone.


Haiti is the country in the world with the highest reported incidence of cervical cancer-- an astonishing rate of 94 cases per 100,000 populations, fifty times higher than similar rates in the United States. It is the main cause of cancer deaths among Haitian women, amounting to around 1,500 deaths annually. The common risk factors for Cervical Cancer are, smoking, giving birth at a young age and having a weakened immune system. The disease can be taken care of with 80 to 95% success rate, if all women go for cytology based cervical cancer screening from the age of 21, or within three years of the first sexual encounter. However, in a poor country like Haiti with insufficient access to health care, lack of trained medical professionals, absence of quality medicines, cost effective detection tools like 'Pap smear screening test', such a high mortality rate is never a big surprise. A country with 10 million populations has less than 10 trained pathologists. Many poor women cannot continue their follow up treatments or visit health care centers from their remote locations. Some health experts prefer to introduce a low-cost investigation process named VIA or "visual inspection with acetic acid".

Dr. Rachel Masch, the executive director of the Basic Health International visited Port-au-Prince in 2013 and she had trained midwives in the VIA procedure. Basic Health International works jointly with the California-based aid organization Direct Relief and the Haitian nonprofit St. Luke Foundation. They have saved lives of several dozens of Haitian women through their care.

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