NASSAU, The Bahamas --- The establishment of a Colposcopy Clinic at the South Beach Community Health Centre Monday will play a critical role in the future treatment of cervical cancer in The Bahamas, particularly at the public healthcare level, Maternal and Child Health Services Consultant Dr Baldwin Carey said.
Prior to its launch at the South Beach Health Centre, colposcopy services were only available at the Princess Margaret Hospital or in the private sector.
Dr Carey said the addition of a colposcopy machine will help to dramatically improve health outcomes for Bahamian women on a far larger scale as it will allow for more regular and early screenings for females.
The Machine was donated by the Government of Spain as a result of a collaborative effort between the CARICOM Secretariat and the Government of Spain to train 30 regional gynaecologists and obstetricians in June, 2009. Spain agreed to donate a colposcope to each CARICOM Member-State that participated in the training.
Colposcopy is a medical diagnostic procedure that utilizes a special microscope (colposcope) to examine the cervix and tissues of the vagina and vulva thoroughly to be able to detect pre-malignant lesions.
Cervical cancer is the number one female gynaecological cancer in The Bahamas with an estimated 25 new cases reported annually.
Dr Carey said studies in Great Britain have shown that early screenings have led to a more than 30 per cent decrease in the number of women with cervical cancer as a result of early screenings.
“This country has lost many mothers in their 30s and 40s to cervical cancer despite the extensive amounts of monies invested in treating their condition,” Dr Carey said. “The importance of regular screening cannot be emphasized enough as studies in England have shown a 35 per cent decrease in cervical cancer as a direct result of early screening.
“The establishment of the colposcopy unit, along with a strong follow-up and education unit will do much to improve the long wait for an appointment at the Princess Margaret Hospital and relieve the burden of cervical cancer treatment to individuals and their families,” Dr Carey added.
The colposcope is a “relatively inexpensive technology” that can detect pre-cancerous lesions and treat them before they progress to the invasive disease of cervical cancer, he said
Pap-smear tests are an “acceptable and effective” screening tool for avoiding much of the health care costs, suffering and deaths associated with the disease, Dr Carey said.
“Unfortunately, less than 10 per cent of the women in The Bahamas receive annual pap smear tests,” Dr Carey said. “When the pap-smear reveals pre-malignant lesions, the new colposcopy machine will indicate whether the lesions are invasive and require more extensive treatment.
“Sadly, many women who know they have lesions have not followed through using the colposcopy machine - either because it was not readily available or because they are in denial – and show up with the disease many years later,” Dr Carey added.
The Maternal and Child Health Services consultant said statistics show that 7,629 pap smears were conducted in the public care system in 2007 and another 8,249 in 2008.
He said 1,000 women are referred for abnormal pap smear tests annually, of which a minimum of 300 require colposcopy screening.
“The establishment of the colposcopy clinic fulfils the mission of the Ministry of Health and Department of Public Health to provide accessible and affordable healthcare services to all Bahamians,” Dr. Carey added.