Empowering Lives: Houston PAP Project’s Impact on Cervical Cancer Screening
Juana Espino, a cervical cancer survivor and the project coordinator of the Houston PAP Project, shares her inspiring journey to promote cervical cancer screenings within the Hispanic community. The UTHealth Houston program, led by dedicated individuals like Espino, offers no-cost screenings to a predominantly Hispanic population, aiming to address healthcare access challenges.
The Houston PAP Project conducts screenings at two clinics, UT Physicians Multispecialty Clinic–Jensen and UT Physicians Multispecialty Clinic–Rosenberg, nearly every month. The acronym PAP signifies both the cervical cancer screening test, the Papanicolaou smear (Pap test), and the project’s mission in Spanish: Prevenir, Ayudar, Poder (to prevent, help, and be able).
With a focus on creating a welcoming environment, the project provides not only cervical cancer screenings but also follow-up testing and treatment, including colposcopies and excisional procedures for cervical precancer. Dr. Abigail Zamorano, a gynecologic oncologist with UT Physicians, emphasizes the importance of normalizing screenings to alleviate fear and anxiety.
Community outreach plays a pivotal role in encouraging women to attend screenings. Flyers are distributed at schools, churches, and grocery stores to reach the community effectively. The power of communication within the community, especially the encouragement from friends or family members, is identified as a significant motivator.
The Healthcare Transformation Initiatives (HTI) team with UTHealth Houston collaborates with the Houston PAP Project to provide guidance and support. Xochitl K. Olguin, project manager of Houston PAP Project and HTI, emphasizes the collective effort involving HTI, clinic leaders, community health workers, medical students, physicians, and nurses volunteering at screening clinics.
Continued efforts focus on expanding the project, with plans for mobile mammography expected to launch later this year. The vision includes extending the program to additional UT Physicians clinics to reach more women in need. Juana Espino, described as the heart of the project, embodies the commitment to empowering women through reassurance, education, and advocacy.
The Houston PAP Project stands as a testament to the positive impact of community-driven initiatives in promoting women’s health, breaking barriers, and providing essential healthcare services.