Pharmacy Association Celebrates Cervical Cancer Month

Hilltop Pharmacy representatives

The Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association (BPA) has started off the new year on a high note, fulfilling its commitment to educate the public while providing stellar healthcare in pharmaceuticals. This is the first in a series of sessions designed to inform members of the general public in ways to stave off preventable diseases and maintain their health, while following proper guidelines for any medications prescribed, in order to live at optimal heath. It’s all a part of the BPA “Pharmacy Cares” campaign that is rolling out throughout communities in the country and on social media. 

The BPA, in collaboration with Dr. Nina Graham, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, hosted the first session as a Public Edutainment event at Fusion Superplex on January 19 under the theme: “Cervical Cancer Awareness”. The event featured a Mix & Mingle, followed by an official educational presentation by Dr. Graham. Several local pharmacies had booths at the Mix & Mingle to provide awareness and medical consultation concerning cervical cancer. 

According to BPA president Shantia Heild-McBride, the organization chose this as the first topic in light of January being recognised as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. During the recent price control negotiations between the BPA and the Government, the BPA recommended the addition of oncology/ cancer medications to the Amendment list.

“We see the need for patients to receive the benefits and economic savings, but it also opened up the conversation of cancer awareness,” Mrs. Heild-McBride said. 

“Community pharmacy is especially a pivotal industry in cervical cancer awareness as cervical cancer disease is preventable. Pharmacies are the ideal locations for health professionals to screen patients. Symptoms such as pelvic pain, bleeding, vaginal and back pain, and leg swelling are all symptoms. Therefore, by the pharmacist recognising the symptoms, a patient can be referred to qualified physicians such as Dr. Graham.”

During her presentation, Dr. Graham spoke on the topic: Prevent Cervical Cancer – Be Perfectly Papped”. She told those gathered that there are two vaccines to prevent cervical cancer currently available in The Bahamas. Males and females, she said should be vaccinated beginning around ages 11 to 12. It is highly recommended that all three shots be administered during a 6 month time frame. Several public clinics offer these vaccines.

“Men can also carry the virus and develop cancer of the penis,” Dr. Graham explained. 

“The virus that leads to cervical cancer can cause cancer in other regions of the female reproductive tract and if left untreated, it can spread to other organs of the body.”

Dr. Graham is the Director of Prevention in Gynaecology/ Oncology at the Princess Margaret Hospital. She became a staunch advocate prevention when over a decade ago, she encountered a patient – a young woman in her 30s. The woman, a mother of three young children, said to Dr. Graham, “Please don’t let me die”. Cervical cancer, Dr. Graham said, is preventable and therefore, she believes no one should die from it. This spurred her into what has become a life mission of passionate advocacy for women’s health. 

Since then, Dr. Graham has founded two support groups – “Her Evolving Journey” and “The Menopause Lounge” designed to “inform, educate, uplift and inspire”. She is also the founder of Femina – a clinic that specializes in women’s health and wellness, located in the Palmdale area. Dr. Graham can also be visited at the Family Medicine Center on Blake Road or at the Princess Margaret Hospital. She is likely the first doctor that a patient will see if presented with abnormal pap smear results or abnormal bleeding accompanied with high risk factors. 

According to the United Nations, in 2020, an estimated 604,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide, 342,000 of whom died from the disease. Few diseases reflect global inequities as much as cancer of the cervix, according to the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 90 per cent of 2018 deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries, where the burden of cervical cancer is greatest, because access to public health services is limited and screening and treatment have not been widely implemented. Dr. Graham says with a UN goal of eradicating cervical cancer by 2030, The Bahamas can do its part through education, and prevention.  

The BPA representing pharmacies at the event included One-On-One Pharmacy, Hilltop Pharmacy, Prescription Parlour Pharmacy; and Quality Care Pharmacy. Wholesale distributors were also represented: Health 2000 Canada Inc.; Nassau Agencies and Commonwealth Drugs and Medical Supplies (CDM Corporate Group).

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