They say ignorance is bliss, but is it always the case? Ignorance can be dangerous. It is exceptionally dangerous when the ignorance is a matter of life and death as is the case of women who are unaware that they have cervical cancer.
Cancer in general is affecting a lot of people in the world. There is a breast cancer that is a menace with the whole month of October every year dedicated to it as Breast Cancer Awareness Month marked by the signature pink ribbon.
However, unlike breast cancer, the survival rates of cervical cancer are rather forbidding especially in cases of late detection.
Malawi has the highest number of cervical cancer new cases and deaths, globally. medical statistics indicate that 11 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day, eight of which die of the disease every day and many others suffer from complications of the disease. This is very alarming.
A cocktail of factors affects the gloomy statistics; lack of knowledge and awareness of the disease, location, poor screening environment and apparent quality of care, lack of resources, inadequate funding and staffing and lack of appropriate monitoring and guidelines. These factors are on a personal level. Institutional level and national health care system level.
A couple of organisations and medical personnel have in recent years introduced various interventions to assist in fighting cervical cancer.
One of the biggest challenges in light of cervical cancer was convenience of screening or availability of screening services for women in both rural and urban areas.
This was compounded by the fact that most women both in rural and urban areas where ignorant of the risks of cervical cancer.
Recently there has been a lot of awareness raised in relation to cervical cancer and the rise of screening facilities and services including mobile services. A great intervention has been the incorporation of cervical cancer screening into women’s general health services and other special health services like reproductive and HIV services.
Most women are now screened on direction or recommendation from their doctors when they go to access other services. Luckily, the screening takes less than 15 minutes; a fact most women need to know and embrace to encourage screening. This is 15 minutes that can potentially save your life or save you from a longer period of complications.
Making cervical cancer screening routine is important for all women, everywhere.
However, there is still a long way to go to get to the point where the statistics are reduced to half then to zero. And this success will heavily hinge on awareness and institutional and government support to health services in the country.
There is need for dedicated resources towards cervical cancer service delivery and investment in both mobile and stationery facilities to support women in both rural and urban areas to combat the disease.
The enemy that is cervical cancer in this country attacks at three levels; awareness, detection and treatment/ management. So it is not enough to only build awareness around cervical cancer. It is not enough to only ensure early detection by providing convenient screening services it. It not enough to only provide treatment after detection.
I rest my case.