Less: Compared to 2006, there was less cervical cancer screening disparity between those women with secondary and lower education and women who had technical and higher education in 2011, according to the Adult Health Survey 2011. There was no disparity between black and white women. *Graph supplied by the Bermuda Health Council
Less: Compared to 2006, there was less cervical cancer screening disparity between those women with secondary and lower education and women who had technical and higher education in 2011, according to the Adult Health Survey 2011. There was no disparity between black and white women. *Graph supplied by the Bermuda Health Council

FRIDAY, JAN. 27: January is Cervical Health Month and as the regulator and coordinator tasked with enhancing the delivery of health services on the Island, the Bermuda Health Council would like to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the access to the preventative care on the Island.

Question: What is Cervical Cancer and if I’m male, why should I care?

Answer: Cervical cancer, named for the cervix in a woman’s body where the cancer starts, is the third most common type of cancer to affect women after breast cancer and skin cancer. The direct cause of cervical cancer is unknown, but can be linked to risk factors such as many sexual partners, early sexual activity, and the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease.

According to the US Government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention there are 40 different kinds of HPV and these can cause cervical cancer in women and different types of cancer in both men and women. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life, but many may never know about it, leading both men and women to pass the disease on to their sexual partners. In some cases, HPV may be tackled by a person’s immune system, but other times it can lead to cancer and death.

Question: What can I do about this deadly cancer?

Answer: While cervical cancer can be one of the deadliest, it can be prevented or treated if it is detected in the early onset. In order to detect the disease the Bermuda Department of Health recommends:

Pap tests every two years for young women 21 to 29 if the screenings are normal

Pap tests every two to three years for 30 and over if they have had three successive normal paps.

HPV vaccine (three doses) should be given to girls ages 9-18, preferably starting at 11-12 years of age. Women ages 19-26 may also get the vaccine, but for the greatest benefit, it should be given before girls or women become sexually active. 

Question: And how is Bermuda doing with regard to cervical cancer prevention?

Answer: The Health in Review report published by the Department of Health (DOH) and BHeC in January last year showed that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (OECD) average rate of cervical cancer screening was 64 per cent (for women aged 20 and 69), while in Bermuda it was 80.2 per cent. The report also showed that Bermuda’s cervical cancer mortality rate was below the OECD average (1.8 vs. 3.0 respectively). More recently, the DOH and BHeC’s Health Survey of Adults in Bermuda 2011 found that the level of screening disparity between women of different educational levels had decreased between 2006 and 2011 (see graph for a brief demographic breakdown). Vigilance in screening, however, must remain if we want to see continued good outcomes for women in Bermuda.

For more information on these reports, or medical practitioners, in Bermuda visit our website: www.bhec.bm.

*The information presented in this article should not pre-empt any medical advice from a physician and if you have any symptoms that are of concern, please make an appointment with your medical practitioner.

The Bermuda Health Council and the Bermuda Sun have teamed-up to answer your questions about the island’s health care system. Visit www.bhec.bm to submit your question.