Safe sex can reduce risk of cervical cancer, says nurse

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and NCHRA CEO Davlin Thomas take questions from some of the women who turned up for health screenings at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on Saturday. – ROGER JACOB

Scores of women visited the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on Saturday as the Ministry of Health hosted its fourth annual Pap Smear Initiative.

First held in 2016, the initiative aims to encourage women aged 21 and over to get regular Pap smears to help with the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer.

Apart from Pap smears, the initiative’s co-ordinator nurse Mitsy Nicholas-Bennett told Sunday Newsday that women must engage in safer sexual practices to reduce their chance of contracting the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer.

Nicholas-Bennett explained, “We have to raise awareness for preventative measures to look after women’s sexual health, so that is how we started this initiative.

“We have to encourage our ladies to have safer sexual practices and get the HPV vaccine.

“Once you are sexually active from the age of 21 and over, we encourage you to come and have a Pap smear done yearly.”

HPV vaccines are available year-round for free at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital.

A concerned Nicholas-Bennet, who is also a nursing supervisor at the hospital’s outpatient clinic, said she has observed more young women developing cervical cancer in the past several years.

She said this suggests the need for greater focus on sexual health and early cancer screenings.

During Sunday Newsday’s visit to the event, women were seen waiting for their Pap Smears and other free health checks including eye tests, dental services, and HIV testing.

Access to nutritionists, HIV counselling and family planning were some of the other free health services offered.

Attracting more than 500 women annually, Nicholas-Bennett said this year’s turnout was no exception which she said mirrored the enthusiasm for the event.

“What we have seen over the past few years, and we anticipate this year, is an increase in women coming in to get their Pap smear screening.

“We are also seeing early detection and we are also seeing better results for the treatment of cervical cancer.

“That is the benefit from the whole drive, to ensure preventative measures, early detection and treatment so that women wouldn’t die.”

In a brief speech at the event, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh encouraged women to get their regular Pap smears and care for their health by exercising and eating healthy.

During a brief walk around, Deyalsingh met and spoke with several people waiting to get their free services and he even took time to dance with a steelband.

Soca artiste Marvin “Swappi” Davis serenaded participants with a medley of his hits.