Almost too late - Survivor bemoans one year for cancer diagnosis
Seven-year cancer survivor Juliet Davis is appealing to authorities in the public health sector to see what can be done to make the waiting time for appointments and results for cancer-related illnesses much quicker.
It took Davis more than a year from the time she took her first Pap smear to find out she had stage-four cervical cancer.
Davis, 58, said in 2008, she went to a health centre in Harbour View, St Andrew, to get treatment for an issue that she had with her toes and decided to make use of the Government's free healthcare policy to have the Pap smear done.
"They say it takes six months for the test, and I said no problem. I forget everything about it, but I saw some signs like bleeding during sex, but because I have the fibroids, I thought that was causing the problem until one day I was going to work and I said, 'Let me stop and check over the clinic,' and when I went there, they found a trace of the cancer," Davis said
Three months for an appointment
After learning that a test done at a health clinic had found trace elements of cancer, Davis said the next day, she went to the gynaecology clinic at Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston but it took her three months before she could get an appointment.
"The problem with down there is, because it's free healthcare, it takes too long to get through. It takes three months to get the appointment date to come and do the first test where they clip off a piece and test it, and you get another three months again and them burn off another piece and test it, and you have another long appointment date," she related.
Davis opted to do some of the other tests with a private entity because the list of persons waiting to do the tests at Victoria Jubilee was excessively long.
"I had to go outside to get the tests done and it still took me a year. Some people don't live long enough to even get back the results," said Davis.
By the time all the relevant tests were done to prove that it was in fact cervical cancer, the disease had spread rapidly and she was transferred to the Kingston Public Hospital. She had gone from just a trace to stage four, and so she had to forgo any surgery and went straight into treatment.
"I did two months straight every morning. I had to do radiation, and on Wednesdays I have to double up with chemotherapy and radiation," said Davis.
A check with the Jamaican Cancer Society confirmed that the results of a Pap smear done there are available in 15 working days.
Davis is appealing on behalf of people who use public facilities, for the authorities to put a system in place to make the turnaround time quicker.
"Cut down on the waiting time, even charge us a small fee to maintain the equipment. It would be better for us. Going outside to do the test, sometimes you have to find $60,000 or more. When your salary is $5,000, God forbid you can't go do the test," sad Davis.