Millions being spent below the belt

An average of 40 women are diagnosed annually with cervical cancer; yet this disease remains an unmentionable topic, and the silence causes its continued spread, says Dr Vikash Chatrani.

Dr Vikash Chatrani
Dr Vikash Chatrani

Chatrani told a Cancer Support Services lecture last night that when doctor visits, chemotherapy, surgery and radiation are added up, the estimated cost of treating those persons each year is in the vicinity of $1.75 million. Still, that malignant ailment is preventable.

“From the introduction of the pap smear we’ve seen cervical cancer rates drop dramatically. But you have to make sure you go and get that pap smear for that significant drop to apply to you,” Chatrani told an audience of mostly women as he delivered his presentation Cancer Below The Belt at  Queen’s College auditorium.

The gynae-oncologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital spoke to the stigma of cervical cancer.

“When somebody gets breast cancer, they tell you about it and you go and tell your friends,” he said.

But, he continued: “When anybody gets cancer of the cervix, they hush up. That’s your private parts. They ain’t want anybody know about that. So they don’t spread the awareness; and people don’t go and get tested. And then the disease continues to be present.”

From stigma, the clinical director at the Barbados Cancer Society went on to address resistance as the other reason that makes the battle against this cancer difficult. Chatrani noted the poor registration figure of Barbadians permitting their nine- to 12-year-old girls to take the human papillomavirus vaccination (HPV).

“Internationally, the acceptance rate of the vaccine has been about 80 to 90 per cent. In Barbados it was estimated to be 40 to 50 per cent.”

He said when checks were made of the people who allowed their girls to complete all three dosages, the rate went down to 19 per cent

“And then in some of the faith-based schools the uptake is three per cent. People are refusing the vaccine because of the things you are seeing on Facebook; because of the hype out there, like ‘my daughter not having sex’,” Chatrani  said.

He assured his listeners: “We know your daughter is not having sex. We’re trying to boost the immune system before they come into [sexual] contact.”

The specialist said Internet and other sources of misinformation had many people in Barbados refusing to consent to their children being vaccinated for fear that the vaccine was experimental and the authorities were making them guinea pigs.

“With regards to being guinea pigs, over 46 million people worldwide have received this vaccine,” Chatrani said, explaining that was according to statistics of two years ago. “It’s actually over 170 million now. So you’re not a guinea pig.

“I went to a [medical] conference last week and when I told them we implemented the vaccine two years ago, they asked me why it took so long. Other places implemented it since 2006.”

Meanwhile, said the gynae-oncologist, the hospital continues to lack facilities for specialized care for cancer patients.

“We all know the situation at the hospital . . . . At present the same clinic sees the pregnant patient and the patient that has fibroids come together. So, imagine you’ve got 80 patients to see: some pregnant, some with benign conditions like fibroid, and some that you have to break the news that they have cancer.”

A portion of the audience attending the lecture on cervical cancer in Barbados.
A portion of the audience attending the lecture on cervical cancer in Barbados.

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