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Project June 23, 2017

Bringing Hope to Women with Cancer in Haiti

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At the end of the education session, the group gathers for a picture. Most of these women will stay to get cervical cancer screenings and, if needed, cryotherapy. The other women will come back the next day to get screened. An individual screening takes about five minutes and women are moved through quickly. Both the nurses and Holdie perform the screenings on the women. Women who test positive line up against one wall and wait for the cryotherapy treatment. Cryotherapy is a painful, 11-minute long…
At the end of the education session, the group gathers for a picture. Most of these women will stay to get cervical cancer screenings and, if needed, cryotherapy. The other women will come back the next day to get screened. An individual screening takes about five minutes and women are moved through quickly. Both the nurses and Holdie perform the screenings on the women. Women who test positive line up against one wall and wait for the cryotherapy treatment. Cryotherapy is a painful, 11-minute long procedure. However, once women go through cryotherapy, they have an almost zero percent chance of developing cervical cancer. Image by Anna Russell. Haiti, 2017.

Women's health continues to be a consistently neglected issue in developing countries. The result of this is that women and their families often suffer needlessly from easily treatable or entirely preventable diseases.

Breast and cervical cancer, so-called women's cancers, are two such diseases that are emerging as a crisis in many underdeveloped nations, none more so than Haiti. Some reports suggest Haiti has the highest mortality rate of cervical cancer in the world. Additionally, approximately 80 percent of women who seek assistance for breast cancer arrive more than a year after they first realized something was wrong. Most women do not know the initial warning signs and wait until the cancer is late stage before seeking help.

For these women there is little hope for assistance as costs and access prevent them from seeking medical treatment until the late stages of disease. At that point, what limited treatment there was, becomes palliative. Even this is unattainable for many. Patients are told to purchase chemotherapy drugs from pharmacies to give to their doctors to use while those requiring radiation therapy are told to travel to the Dominican Republic for the costly treatment. Only four healthcare clinics in Haiti offer any type of cancer care or treatment, three of them in Port-au-Prince.

Despite these enormous obstacles, these women fight the odds in a race against time to secure funding for the treatment of their cancers. Follow our stories to learn about the women who are facing these cancers head-on and the people working to educate women and prevent and treat women's cancers.

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