Dr. Dorothy Cooke-Johnson
Dr. Dorothy Cooke-Johnson

Only about a quarter of Barbadian women are coming forward for screening for cervical cancer and President of the Barbados Cancer Society, Dr. Dorothy Cooke-Johnson revealed that more than 60,000 women still needed to be tested.

“The last time that I was really interested in this, which was some time ago, I estimated that there were about 60,000 women in Barbados who actually needed screening and of those at that time, which was about eight years ago, probably about 20,000 were receiving screening and that of course the frequency, which is once every three years or once every year…

“I would say a quarter of those who should be were doing so,” said the cancer-avoidance advocate as she answered a question at the launch of the End Cervical Cancer Now e-petition launch at the Caribbean Disease Research Centre last evening.

Questioned about the figures after the launch, Cooke-Johnson explained that the intention was to have 100 per cent testing in the island but some women for whatever reason were not coming forward and that was a concern.

Part of the challenge, she said was that they had realised some years ago that it was the same women returning time and again to be testing and fewer new cases of women getting the pap smear.

“There could be a mix because you could do it every three years and we might be right within it, but I believe that the same women are coming forward every year in order to do a pap smear test and some women are not responding as yet and those are the women I hope this e-petition will get to so they can realise that early detection is really the best protection and with cervical cancer you can see changes in the cells before it even turns into cancer so you can deal with it immediately and never experience it,” she said.

She said another issue that had to be dealt with was the waiting time, as it could take about two months to get the results of the test. Explaining that cancer was a slow moving disease, she said nevertheless tests were “rushed” if there was an emergency and women should not see the wait as a deterrent.

“When we first started cytology really needed more microscopes and other things, now they have got a lovely suite and a new area where the cytological testing is done. However, as with everything, we need more cyto-technologists, more microscopes, faster turn-around and everything else that is personnel and finance-based.

“So if the pressure is there, then perhaps the response will occur. What I can say to women, go ahead and get your test and be prepared for a little bit of wait in the first instance. If you persist there won’t be a wait for too long because everyone will be then anxious to get their tests back and force some kind of improvement. Not saying that it is bad in relation to the rest of the world, but it is a bit of a long wait if you have to wait six weeks or two months in order to get back a test which is causing you some anxiety,” she said.

Those wanting to sign the e-petition which urges CARICOM leaders to, among other things, make cervical cancer tests more affordable for women, can visit or go to the Healthy Caribbean Coalition’s Facebook page and click on the link Cervical Cancer e-petition. (LB)

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