BY LORRAINE MUROMO
CERVICAL cancer has become a major health concern among Zimbabwean women where an average of 3 000 cases are recorded each year, health experts have observed.
Cervical cancer constitutes about 37% of all the cancers in the country.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programmes specialist Edwin Mpeta told NewsDay on the sidelines of a media training workshop in Harare early this week that the country urgently needed to decentralise its cancer screening services to rural areas to enable early diagnosis and treatment.
“For women that are found with cancer, they should have access to surgical care, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Screening is very important and the Ministry of Health is introducing the HPV DNA testing where a laboratory test is conducted and cells are scraped from the cervix to look for DNA of the human papillomaviruses (HPV),” Mpeta said.
“In Zimbabwe about 3 043 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually and it is a cause for concern. In some provinces such as Masvingo, there are some rural health centres that have been capacitated in order to do the screening using Visual Inspection with acetic acid and camera (VIAC). The programmes are also being brought to rural women
through outreach clinics,” he added.
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa said: “Cervical cancer is on the rise and diagnosis is being made on a yearly basis. More than 3 000 cases are detected in Zimbabwe. This number is emanating from increased testing and as a country we are doing well but we should extend the services to remote areas which are lacking screening skills.”
Cancer Association of Zimbabwe evaluation and research officer, Lovemore Makurirofa said not all cancer cases were diagnosed, which meant they could be more cases.
“In 2017, cervical cancer contributed about 20% to the cancer burden and it is possible that the numbers are now much higher than what is being presented. As a nation we need to encourage women to be screened and educate women of the importance of screening.”
Makurirofa said cervical cancer could be prevented since it took longer to develop, thereby allowing more time to combat it.
“Women who are HIV positive are more at risk of contracting cancer, therefore, according to the cancer registry; women who are living positively are encouraged to be screened annually.
“They are also encouraged to adhere to their treatment regimens as the relationship between the HIV virus and cervical cancer depends on the immune system, and if treatment is adhered to, chances are very low.”
Makurirofa urged women living positively to seek medical attention early, especially if they have a sexually transmitted disease to reduce chances of contracting cancer.