In Haiti, cervical cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer deaths, but very few women have access to screening and treatment services. This is in dramatic contrast with the United States and other high-income countries where death from cervical cancer is rare because routine screening detects it at an early stage, when it is easily treatable. Early detection has been vital to the detection of cases and prevention of deaths for decades. Screening for cervical cancer is essential, but many women in developing countries do not have access to it. Per The World Health Organization cervical cancer deaths reached almost 342,000 in 2020, and 90% of these deaths occurred in low to middle-income countries.
In order to reduce mortalities from cervical cancer, better access to screening and treatment is critical for women in Haiti and other developing countries. Maison de Naissance, a maternal and infant health center in rural Torbeck, Haiti, is planning to add this service to their standard maternal health care program in 2023.
The road to proper care is full of obstacles. Nations such as Haiti suffer greatly from limited cancer screening and treatment support. Dr. Joseph Bernard Jr., the medical director of the Innovating Health International (IHI) Cancer Program in Port-au-Prince, notes that a lack of resources, specialists, and awareness are the primary roadblocks Haitian women face for cancer diagnoses, and this has led to a low survival rate in the country. Those who do have access to cancer screening resources usually have to pay out of pocket or use health insurance, which is rare in Haiti and does not cover all the costs. Many cases are diagnosed in later stages, reducing survivability. Thus, the perception and fear of cancer are barriers to screening, as most of the population sees it as a death sentence. The World Economic Forum’s study of cervical cancer worldwide reveals 600,000 cervical cancer cases each year are preventable through vaccinations and screenings. Education also has great value in bringing more awareness to preventive measures for cervical cancer, so it is likely the demand for screening and vaccines would increase as the stigma around cervical cancer decreases. If these resources were largely accessible and available to Haitian women, it is feasible that many more would survive the disease or avoid it altogether.
Maison de Naissance is implementing an HPV/cervical cancer “See and Treat” program in 2023, with your support, to prevent unnecessary deaths from this disease in the communities it serves.
Specially written for GlobalBirthingHomeFoundation.org by Reese Jones
Photo credit: Kolette Bury