Doctor wants girls vaccinated against HPV
Parents are being encouraged to allow their daughters to be vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
Some parents were reluctant to give their approval when the Ministry of Health began a vaccination drive for first-form girls in public and private secondary schools, two years ago.
Medical officials say HPV can be spread even when an infected person shows no signs or symptoms.
Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Globeathon walk and run to end women’s cancers this morning, Gynae-Oncologist Dr Vikash Chatrani said the vaccination has been clinically tested and proven safe.
“HPV has been shown to be responsible for over 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases. So you may hear a lot of things out there, but this is essentially a cancer vaccine . . . We are giving young girls because we give vaccine to people before they become infected.
“It is not common for young girls to have gynaecological cancers, but I didn’t want you to believe that it is only the advanced age women above 60 and above 70. We have had 15-year-olds, numerous 30 something year-olds, 50-year-olds . . .,” he added.
Meanwhile, he stressed that while breast cancer remained the number one cause of death among Caribbean women, the mortality rates for cancers of the reproductive system were higher.
“More women are dying because of below the belt women’s cancer. And that mortality is in excess of 50 per cent for cervical, in excess of 60 per cent for ovarian, and just when you add them up together, it’s more than breast cancer.
“We need this to stop. We need more effort to be focused below the belt,” Dr Chatrani said.
He also noted that while a pap smear was important in detecting cervical cancer, there are four others that escape detection from this test.
“You still have . . . vulva cancer, vaginal cancer, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer.
“So a woman tends to believe that once they have had their pap smear all is well if that is normal. But there are still other cancers you have to look out for. Pay attention to your body. If there is something that has changed and persisted for more than two weeks, there is something that is going on, so visit your doctor,” Dr Chatrani insisted.
He encouraged the public to support this year’s awareness campaign, which will be held on September 13. Dr Chatrani said last year’s event raised over $60,000 and funds raised from this year’s Globeathon will go towards improving women’s cancer services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, through the purchase of modernized equipment, as well as delivering treatment to patients.
Globeathon is being sponsored by Sagicor Life Inc, and vice president of Group Insurance Patricia Brathwaite-Marshall said the company would continue to support such community initiatives.
“We believe positive change and development can be achieved through support of initiatives in the areas of health, education, sport and youth-four important threads of our social fabric,” she said.