Sunday, September 18, 2011

Motivated by Fear

Preventive medicine is a hard sell, no matter where you are in the world.  Now, I know there are some very health-conscious people out there who will disagree with me, but most people don't like to go to the doctor, especially when there is nothing obviously wrong.  This is especially true in Guatemala.  Here, the name of the game is sypmtom relief. If the patient can only afford one medication and had to choose between cough syrup and antibiotics the syrup wins every time.  Encouraging vaccines and healthy lifestyle choices and regular checkups is hard work.  Take for instance the Pap smear.  We have finally gotten to the point where where we do 10-15 pap smears a month.  That doesn't sound like many, but it's up from 0. However, being the prevalent cancer that it is, cervical cancer rears it's ugly head in one of our communities at least 2-3 times a year that we know of.  And this usually gets people motivated to come in for the dreaded exam.  We even get husbands bringing in their wives to be checked.  Last month, a lady from the church in Santa Cruz passed away from advanced cervical cancer. She was 50 years old and still had children at home.  The news made it around the churches quickly and the ladies started asking for appointments to come in.  In the last two weeks we sent in 10 specimens already.  We usually do these on a special pap smear day because it takes longer.  But two weeks ago, two sisters came in on a regular clinic day and, of course, were the last patients of the day, wanting their pap smears.  They were scared to death of having an undiagnosed cervical cancer and begged me to do their paps right there.  So, I did (but not without some inward grumbling!).  They were grateful to say the least and went home knowing they had been proactive in their healthcare.  Thankfully all of the paps have come back negative so far.   We hope the interest continues, but we'll see.....

1 comment:

Mehg Lazenby said...

I hear ya....our prevention is don't smoke! Most patients ironically come into the unit, intubated, with their new roaring cancer diagnosis. Quit smoking....6 months ago.