Today we formally launched the Morris Hazan Clinic at Coban Hospital in the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, which is generously supported by the Morris Hazan Family Foundation. It was a joy to hang our sign on the clinic door and to photograph and videotape speeches by the Founder and Director of Cure Cervical Cancer Dr. Patricia Gordon and the Guatemala Director of the CCC Morris Hazan Clinic Doctor Mayra (see picture 4). The launch left us with a feeling of permanence and sustainability. We are full of hope that the new clinic will save the lives of women from the province of Alta Verapaz for many, many years. We are confident that the two dedicated CCC (Cure Cervical Cancer) nurses, Zulia and Juana, along with Dr. Mayra, are fully competent in the “See and Treat” procedure to diagnose and treat premalignant cervical cancer, and are more than capable of continuing to run the clinic for years to come. They passed the stringent CCC technical course with flying colors!
On our third day of clinic work, CCC was also excited to See and Treat many Mayan women from rural villages surrounding Coban. These women had had irregular Pap tests and dysplasia in August but had not received any follow-up treatment. They were told that they had HPV.
The women, often accompanied by small children, were brought by bus or ambulance to the CCC Clinic in Coban which was an hour or more away from their villages. Many of the women spoke only Q’eqchi so we were lucky we had a few nurses and local women who spoke Q’eqchi and could translate into Spanish.
Most of the patients had little idea they were coming for a gynecological exam. Marta thought she was coming to receive pills. The patients were informed about the CCC clinic by health promoters visiting their villages or by local clinicians. Even fewer of the women had learned anything about cervical cancer. Victoria and Ursula mentioned vaginal pain but had no idea they had lesions which someday could develop into cancer.
From talking to the women, we learned they had from 3 to 10 children; some were on injectable contraceptives but others, not. Their husbands worked either in the surrounding flower and plant industries or grew corn. Several of the women wanted to work but with only elementary school education, the only work they could do was cleaning homes. They all wanted their children to be educated enough to get jobs. Victoria wanted her children to work in a hospital. Aurelia wanted her sons to go into police work.
The village women gratefully spent the morning at the clinic waiting for their “See and Treat” exams and treatment for precancerous cervical lesions. Many received cryotherapy. CCC hopes they are now aware enough of the threat of cervical cancer that they will return for re-examination in a few years and will urge their friends and family to come to CCC.