Monday, July 30, 2007

Haiti is Number One Again

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that nearly 80% of cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries.

In 2003, a Pan American Health Organization supported report said that well-organized programs can save lives of many women in the Caribbean, a region that suffers one of the world's highest rates of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of female deaths in Haiti. "At 94 deaths per 100,000 population, the estimated age-standardized incidence in Haiti is by far the highest in the world," according to the report.

The study also reported that most of the resulting health costs, suffering and deaths resulting from cervical cancer in Haiti, other countries in the Caribbean, and Africa are avoidable.

Cervical cancer is intertwined with poverty in Haiti. Risk factors for cervical cancer are more common in impoverished women and women in the lower socio-economic groups are less likely to be screened.

The poverty cycle is perpertuated when young and middle-aged women die of this cancer and leave orphaned children.

Up-To-Date is a medical search engine and has a section on cervical cancer in Africa. Below is an excerpt and if one substitutes "Haiti" for "Africa", the Haitian situation is very accurately described:

"While cervical cancer is a classic example of a neoplastic disease that has thrived in African women due to lack of access to screening, treatment, and care facilities, in reality the process is much more complex. In Africa, cervical cancer is a disease that occurs in women who frequently live within a social context where their human rights are severely restricted, employment is non-existent, malnutrition is rampant, clean water is a rare commodity and sewer systems and electricity are not commonplace.

"Theoretically, cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable. However, insufficient commitments on the part of local governments, operational difficulties, the absence of a sound healthcare delivery infrastructure, shortages in human resources and failure to address the social context in which the disease occurs have resulted in a failure to control cervical cancer in resource-limited settings in Africa and elsewhere.

"Any major advancement in cervical cancer control will require inter-sectoral collaboration and unflinching commitments on the part of researchers, clinicians, program managers, politicians and policy makers to make this a priority.

"Each case of cervical cancer thus represents one of the greatest public health failures of our times."

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