Tag: cervical cancer

Sylvia Rodriguez sits on the foot of her white-linen clad bed at the Hilario Galindo Hospital in the Western Guatemalan state of Retalhuleu, seemingly at peace with her sterile surroundings.  At only 24 years old, Sylvia has gone through more physical and emotional pain than most people experience in their entire lives, but she refuses to let the negative overshadow the positive, even only an hour prior to a hysterectomy ordered by her oncologist.

Sylvia’s hysterectomy is actually part of her treatment – she has a very advanced form of cervical precancer. These recent events have been only part of a series of loops and corkscrews in the rollercoaster of Sylvia’s life.  When she was eight years old, her mother died from a similar form of cervical cancer.  Left with her father, she and her brothers were mentally and physically abused until they collectively decided to save themselves by leaving their father and moving in with their grandmother.  And just four months ago, Sylvia lost her husband of eight years to his battle with rectal cancer, leaving her to care for her three children by herself.

Earlier this year, Sylvia attended a WINGS-organized screening in Cotzumalguapa after hearing a WINGS Educator, Flory, deliver an informal pre-educational seminar on cervical cancer. Sylvia recalls, “I was scared that I showed many of the risk factors that I was told about – for example, my mother had cervical cancer, and I started having unprotected sex at a young age with multiple men, because I was never exposed to responsible sexual health when I was growing up.”

Sylvia went through the screening, which includes visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid and treatment of cellular abnormalities using cryotherapy (VIA/Cryo method), subsidized by WINGS.  Unfortunately, the screening revealed a lesion on her cervix – far too advanced for the cryotherapy to be effective.  Flory referred her to an oncologist in the area to continue testing and treatment.

An additional biopsy, colposcopy, and loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) gave Sylvia the prognosis she had been hoping to avoid: she had severe dysplasia (CIN III) on her cervix, prompting the oncologist to recommend relocation to better facilities and an emergency total hysterectomy. The lone bright spot was that preliminary tests concluded that the cancer was localized to the cervix, so a hysterectomy would theoretically leave Sylvia cancer-free.

“When I found out, I felt desperately sad and alone.  But if it wouldn’t have been for WINGS and their Cervical Cancer screening in Cotzumalguapa, I would have never known about my condition, and I wouldn’t have this opportunity to beat it,” she told Flory, the WINGS Educator that has stayed by her side.  Flory came with Sylvia to give her the support she needed, in the absence of her late husband.

Sylvia, with her hands placed lightly in her lap and her chin held up, looked out the single window onto the adjacent wing of Hilario Galindo.  “This procedure is a second chance at a healthy life with my kids.”

If you would like to support the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program at WINGS, and give women like Sylvia knowledge and screenings that could save their lives, click here to donate.

Sylvia braces to pass through these doors into a chance at a better life.

Amanda’s sister persuaded her to tag along to a WINGS clinic in their community near Patzun. Despite being sexually active since marrying six years ago, 27-year old Amanda had never thought to get a cervical cancer test. At the WINGS’ mobile clinic she listened to a short talk explaining what cervical cancer is, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment and decided to get tested. She was pleased that the Via/Cryo techniques WINGS uses produce immediate results and same-day treatment if necessary. As this was all very new to her, Amanda was utterly shocked to learn that she had pre-cancerous cells. Our nurse and educator, Flori, explained the need for urgent treatment and Amanda opted for cryotherapy to tackle the cancer that very afternoon. This treatment has a success rate of 85-90% and Amanda’s experience was no exception. She is now healthy and plans to attend regular checkups in the future with her sister.

WINGS’ Nurse Flori (who treated Amanda) commented that, “for numerous economic and cultural reasons it can be hard to get women out of the house and into our mobile clinics. It’s important that they are educated in the risks they face and in how to seek reliable testing and treatment”.

WINGS has been fortunate enough to host numerous, well-qualified volunteers in 2010. Here is what one volunteer, Shelly Cooper, said about working for WINGS’ Cervical Cancer Detection and Treatment Program this summer:

“I couldn’t have spent my summer off from medical school working with a more valuable program than WINGS’ cervical cancer program. After reviewing patient charts and attending clinics, I had the opportunity to talk to many Guatemalan women and hear their amazing stories. Many of the women had never been screened for cervical cancer before. Of those that had previously been screened using a Pap-smear, the majority had never received their results and/or several years had passed since their last screening. In addition to the invaluable preventative medicine component of these clinics, the nurses are also able to detect and begin treating various vaginal infections that same day. Patients may have been suffering for months until the WINGS mobile clinic happens to be in their municipality and distributes the necessary antibiotics. These clinics also provide a unique opportunity for women to comfortably talk with two experienced Guatemalan nurses about family planning, OBGYN issues or just basic female anatomy! The WINGS cervical cancer program is truly a successful and effective program.”

WINGS’ cervical cancer program has been very successful so far this summer, and the summer is not over yet! In July alone, WINGS nurses screened 263 women for cervical cancer. Of these women, 97% were screened for the first time ever. These clinics likely saved the lives of three women who were found to have early signs of cervical cancer. WINGS’ staff was able to successfully treat two of these women with cryotherapy on the same day. The third, who showed signs of more advanced cancer, was referred to the National Cancer Institute, where WINGS will subsidize the cost of all follow-up treatment needed to help save her life.

WINGS is very grateful for the help of its volunteers and donors who help make these life-saving services available to underserved women in Guatemala.