January is designated Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and President of the Guyana Cancer Foundation (GCF), Bibi Hassan is making a special appeal to women 21 years and older to have their Pap smears done, since ‘early detection saves lives’.To create awareness the Foundation is hosting its annual “Wear It Teal Friday” event on Friday, January 19, 2018. Persons are asked to support the initiative by wearing the colour teal on that day to show support to cervical cancer survivors.Hassan, through the GCF, has been providing free Pap smears to hundreds of women in Guyana who fall into the low-income bracket. Pap smears will be offered this Saturday, January 20, at the Giftland Mall.The Pap test can detect abnormal cells that may develop into cancer if left untreated. It is recommended every three years for women aged 21-29. Women aged 30-65 years are advised to have the smear every three years or the Pap test in addition to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years.In Guyana, steps are being taken to reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer cases. The national HPV vaccination campaign was launched on October 15, 2017, in Bartica, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).Junior Minister of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings said the campaign formed part of the Ministry’s plan to arrest the number of cervical cancer cases. The campaign targets girls aged 9 to 16, with the end goal being 90 per cent coverage of the target population.According to global research, girls and boys have the best protection from HPV when they receive all doses of the vaccine as recommended before they are exposed to HPV.Locally, young girls in the targeted population will need to take two doses of the vaccines which will take effect in about 10 to 20 years when they are adult women. The vaccination campaign is being conducted under the purview of the Maternal and Child Health Department of the Ministry.According to the Department of Public Information (DPI), Guyana will look to vaccinate boys in the future; however, it aims to immunise the girls with hopes of protecting boys as well. The vaccines can be attained through the school programmes as well as local health centres across the regions.The HPV vaccine arrived here in 2011 and was officially launched by the then Health Ministry in 2012. It was relaunched in 2016 under the present Public Health Ministry in collaboration with Merck Sharp and Dhome (MSD).In addition, for this month, the Guyana Cancer Institute is also administering free Pap smears.The Pap smear is done seven days after a woman’s menstrual cycle and individuals desirous of having it done must abstain from sexual intercourse three days prior.The use of tampons is discouraged before the appointment. Persons desirous of taking advantage of this offer are asked to make an appointment on telephone number 225-5701 or 225-5703.