CERVICAL CANCER: Why Women Need To Go For Screening Regularly

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

It is the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide. But in Africa it is far deadlier than elsewhere, despite being a preventable disease, according to the World Health Organization.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), is behind almost all cervical cancer cases.

Despite the high number of deaths and the existence of an effective vaccine, only 10 African countries have HPV vaccination as part of their routine immunisation programmes.

Angeline Usanase (pictured above), who lives in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, remembers the day her seemingly healthy life took a drastic turn. It was in November 2017 when she saw blood on her panties.

This was no ordinary blood. At 67, Ms Usanase was menopausal and wouldn’t expect even light bleeding. She told BBC News:

“I went to a nearby health centre where the doctors recommended that I take the cervical cancer test. The results came back positive. I was so confused. I could not take it – I thought I was going to die.”

Interestingly, Ms Usanase said that the early detection and timely hospital treatment she received saved her life.

“There are still women who think cervical cancer is as a result of witchcraft and visit witchdoctors for treatment as opposed to medical doctors,” says Ms Usanase.

Women also fear the prospect of having their wombs removed, she adds. But surgery is a treatment for women who already have cervical cancer, not a way to prevent it.

READ ALSO: How Early Sex, Having Kids Early & More Can Double Risk Of Cervical Cancer –Expert, Dr Olumide Ofinran

Coming back home, Mrs. Helen Onwudiwe, the Head of Cervical Cancer Unit, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, on Tuesday urged women of adult age to develop the habit of going for cervical cancer screening regularly.

She made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Awka. According to her, about 20 per cent of women who go for cervical cancer screening in Anambra do so on referral level, as no one comes forward voluntarily for the screening, which is not good enough.

She said that cervical cancer could be prevented through regular screening to identify abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix at an early stage. She added that:

“There is a high rate of ignorance among women within the age bracket of 25 to 50 years, who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of such medical care.

The fear of knowing they are positive also reduces the idea of conducting the test, but it is safer to know one’s status than living in ignorance. There is a vaccine to prevent the disease but women need to visit the hospital to gain information on how to live right and take care of their body to avoid untimely death.”

READ ALSO: Eureka! Scientists Discover ‘Cure’ For Cervical Cancer Using Gene-Editing

Onwudiwe said that women who accessed medical services were usually the ones referred for screening, as women don’t go for tests on their own. She, therefore, advised women not to wait for a doctor to refer them before doing cancer tests, saying they should take their lives in their hands by doing medical check-ups regularly.

The unit head, who said that the health service in the centre was underused, urged faith-based organisations, non-profit organisations, and government agencies to double their efforts toward enlightening women on the need to go for screening.

She said that having multiple sex partners could lead to an ailment that may metamorphose into cervical cancer disease in women “and this valuable information would be made known to women during awareness programmes.”

 

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