Fundación Ortiz Gurdian (FOG)
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death for Nicaraguan women aged 30-60. The incidence of cervical cancer in Nicaragua is approximately four times that in the United States and the death rate approximately nine times. The difference is the result of insufficient access to gynaecologic screening and treatment. Precancerous cervical lesions are often present for many years before cancer develops.
If discovered in time they can be treated easily and inexpensively. Tragically many women are unable to access care due to barriers including limited finances and cultural stigma.
Austin Samaritans has worked since its inception in 2007 to improve cancer care for Nicaraguan women. It has provided substantial donations of medical equipment and supplies to medical clinics and to Hospital Berta Calderon, the only public hospital in Nicaragua caring for indigent women with cancer.
In 2009, Austin Samaritans joined with Fundación Ortiz Gurdion (FOG) to better address cervical cancer and breast cancer for women whose annual family income is less than $2,100 and who are not covered by governmental insurance. Approximately 2,500 women are being screened each year.
Women found to have breast cancer receive comprehensive treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiotherapy. Women found to have precancerous lesions of the cervix undergo treatment of the lesions, saving their lives. Austin Samaritans helps fund the cervical cancer screening and treatment program at FOG, and one other medical clinic in Managua – Clinica Manna Project International.
Once women complete their treatment they are encouraged by FOG to enroll in classes to learn to become Promotoras (Promoters/Recruiters.) As Promotoras, they spread the word in their communities and families and encourage women to be screened for these two types of cancer. These same women help distribute the bono saludos (coupons enabling a woman to have a free screening for breast and cervical cancer at the FOG clinic.) and organize transportations for groups of women from other cities to come to the clinic in Managua for screening. FOG also works with groups in outlying communities to bring women in for screening and required treatment. Six such groups come to the clinic each month. In addition, members of a strong women’s cancer support group at FOG often provide a room for patients from outside Managua. FOG has initiated a three-year empowerment program which they offer to their patients. It is in its ninth year and is being well received.
FOG has expanded the resources they provide to patients to improve their outlook, reduce stress, and build their confidence. They have volunteer-led groups that do yoga, dance, make art, jewelry and decorative items, and discuss empowerment.