Could Cervical Cancer Be the Next Polio?

Could Cervical Cancer Be the Next Polio?

Innovations in Diagnostics, Treatment, and Monitoring Could Eradicate Cervical Cancer

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Friday, October 30, 2015 - 10:00am

CAMPAIGN: The New Global Citizen

CONTENT: Article

Augustina Mejiasamata, a 34-year- old Quechua woman who lives in an Andes mountain village two hours outside of Cusco, Peru, had already waited in line for almost an hour to receive her free Pap smear and breast exam.

“Por qué vino Ud. a la clinica hoy?” Why did you come to the clinic today? I asked.

The president of her village, she explained, had distributed pamphlets a few days earlier, announcing to the women of the village that a free clinic was taking place. She explained her reasons for coming.

“Para saber si estoy mal o no,”—to know if I am sick or not. She clarified further: “Y si tengo este papanicolauu…”—and if I have Papanicolaou, mistaking the name of the test for the name of the disease.

Augustina was one of close to 300 women who attended a four-hour outreach clinic in Ancahuasi, Peru, offered by CerviCusco, a clinic in Cusco, founded in 2007 by Dr. Daron Ferris, an expert gynecological oncologist at Georgia Regents University. Dr. Ferris and his staff seek to provide cervical cancer screening and treatment to the women of the rural Andes Mountains. They frequently conduct extensive outreach campaigns to rural towns and villages outside the city of Cusco, where women from the surrounding area can receive a free test at their local community clinic.

Most women, await the cervical cancer test—Papanicolaou, in English abbreviated to ‘Pap’—diligently wait in line for hours at the clinic to make sure they don’t have “algo malo“—something bad—but don’t understand exactly what they’re being tested for. After a rapid Pap test and breast exam, patients receive a bright yellow slip of paper, instructing them to return to the clinic in one month’s time to retrieve their results. Though attrition rates are high, those with abnormalities who do return for their results are referred back to the clinic in Cusco for treatment.

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