On average, it costs $218 for Juana's treatment
- Impact on patient's life
- Cultural or regional significance
What kinds of symptoms do patients experience before receiving treatment?
Most patients are asymptomatic, but occasionally patients may suffer from bleeding and pain in the pelvic region. Wuqu’ Kawoq runs a large center where people can be screened for cervical cancer with pap smear tests. When a pap smear is positive, or when a woman comes into clinic with an obvious lesion on her cervix, she needs a colposcopy, which is a guided biopsy/removal of affected areas of the cervix. This procedure is often curative for small cancerous or precancerous lesions of the cervix. Occasionally, if the biopsy/removal shows a more aggressive issue, the patient does need to be referred on for more advanced treatment, but most of the time colposcopy is both diagnostic and curative.
What is the impact on patients’ lives of living with these conditions?
These are cases picked up in our medical partner's screening program for cervical cancer, so most of the women don’t have any symptoms at all. This is exactly how a screening program is supposed to work—our medical partner can pick up cases that need treatment when treatment is still easy and curative. If left untreated, many of these cases would go on over a period of months to years and develop into life-threatening invasive cervical cancer.
What cultural or regional factors affect the treatment of these conditions?
Although cervical cancer is very rare in the US and other developed countries because of good access to screening and treatment, in Guatemala it is the most common cause of cancer-related death among women. This is because of poverty and poor infrastructure.
- Impact on patient's life
- Risks and side-effects
What does the treatment process look like?
Treatment is straightforward. The patient is referred to a specialist who examines the cervix under a microscope. Any abnormal areas are removed with an electrical devices and sent for pathology testing to look for cancer. If cancer or precancer is found, this procedure is often curative and women can get back to their lives with regular followup. Usually the entire process can be completed in about two weeks.
What is the impact of this treatment on the patient’s life?
This treatment saves lives. Without access to this procedure, many of these women would eventually develop severe invasive cervical cancer and die of the disease. Cervical cancer attacks early in life frequently robbing women of decades of life and leaving their families alone.
What potential side effects or risks come with this treatment?
This condition is very treatable! At this stage, doctors can remove these lesions easily, at relatively little cost, and save lives. Risks are rare but include bleeding that is very heavy or lasts longer than two weeks, abnormal vaginal discharge, fever, and pelvic pain.
How accessible is treatment in the area? What is the typical journey like for a patient to receive care?
There are several public and private clinics in Guatemala that offer this treatment. However, indigenous women, especially those who don’t speak Spanish, are frightened of the strange procedure and often do not follow through. Our medical partner provides them with the case management, counseling, and financial support to complete the procedure.
What are the alternatives to this treatment?
Most women with a positive pap result are scared and not sure where to turn. Instead of seeking help, they often go home and don’t seek care until many years later when the cancer is no longer treatable.