Educational talk before cervical cancer screening
If caught early, cervical cancer is highly treatable. However, it is the number one cause of cancer-related death among Guatemalan women.
There are many reasons why fighting cervical cancer is so difficult in Guatemala. For one, there is an obvious lack of access to health centers, especially in rural areas, where people are predominantly poorer than in the rest of Guatemala. In fact, more than half of Guatemala’s population lives in rural areas, and the rural poor account for more than 70% of the country’s poor population. Additionally, transportation to a place where women could potentially get a cervical cancer screening is also very unlikely. Not only do rural areas lack proper roads, but there are many villages where public transportation simply does not exist.
Education is also lacking; especially in rural areas. Indigenous girls attend school, on average, for only three years of their lives. Even for those who do attend school; it is most likely that they will not receive education about reproductive health in general, let alone information about cervical cancer. With Guatemala being such a conservative country, reproductive health education and family planning have never been a priority. This results in many women not knowing about the risk factors for cervical cancer, or the importance of getting screened. To make matters worse, those who do need treatment for cervical cancer can rarely afford it. The poorest people in Guatemala live on approximately $2 per day, which simply does not permit paying for treatment, when there is a family to feed and other basic needs to meet.
Take Gabina Sajbin. She is 25 years old and she has three children. She’s from Ximaxox, a very remote village in Quiché. Gabina wanted to get a contraceptive method and a cervical cancer screening, but she thought she did not have enough money to afford both, so she chose to get a contraceptive method first. Gabina had been in constant pain and discomfort for the past few years. She got a pap smear two years ago, but never received the results. Her mother, the local midwife in their town wanted to help Gabina, but there was no medical facility within reach. Thankfully, WINGS held a mobile clinic in Gabina’s town, and once we found out about her financial concerns, we covered the costs of her services.
Gabina’s cervical cancer screening came out positive, but WINGS’ mobile clinics are prepared to provide immediate treatment of pre-cancerous cells using cryotherapy, so Gabina received treatment on the spot. We noticed that it was challenging for Gabina to understand certain words because Spanish is not her first language, but thankfully one of our staff members speaks Gabina’s native tongue, Quiche. This gave Gabina the opportunity to fully understand the importance of screening, the disease progression, and the treatment. To this day, we are still in contact with Gabina, making sure that she gets the attention and treatment she needs.
There are so many women in need of screening and treatment in Guatemala, but lack of resources and other challenging life circumstances create significant barriers to access. WINGS breaks down these barriers in many ways. We provide talks and training that explain the risk factors of cervical cancer, the disease progression, treatment, and the importance of screening. We also reduce our patients’ financial burden by providing low-cost, high quality services made possible through generous donations to WINGS. Last but not least, our mobile clinics are key; if a patient cannot come to us, we will go to them. Through our mobile clinics, we are able to reach people in the most remote, rural areas of the country, in the hope that more Guatemalans can get the medical attention and services they need. In 2015, WINGS surpassed its cervical cancer screening projection by 141%, screening 3,062 women. And just in the first three months of 2016, we have already done 496 cervical cancer screenings.
Thank you for standing with WINGS and bringing vital cervical cancer education and screening to vulnerable women in Guatemala.
WINGS doing outreach in rural Guatemala
WINGS nurse and a patient during our mobile clinic