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Trailing a malignant enemy

THRILLED – Phiri (left)


Myths surrounding cervical cancer screening and the fear of finding out that the disease has attacked them used to compel some women to rather remain ignorant of their conditions.

Elizabeth Mbedza from Traditional Authority (T/A) Khombeza in Salima is one of the women who used to resist the screening process.

“Many women told me that the equipment used in the process is very big and might cause pain. So even after repeatedly hearing the message on the radio, I was still not eager to go for screening,” Mbedza says.

But by and by, there has been improvement in the number of women going for cervical cancer screening in the country.

In the process, more of them are also being treated early enough before the disease spreads, according to the Ministry of Health and Population Services.

National Training Officer for cervical cancer in the country, Wesley Sichali, says from January to March this year, over 49,000 women were screened with only 200 being found with the preventable malignant tumour of the lowermost part of the uterus.

Sichali says about 100 cases were treated and that the rest may not have accessed treatment for reasons such as not reporting to hospital after diagnosis.

According to Sichali, in 2010 and years prior, Malawi was among countries with the highest number of cervical cancer-related deaths.

Over 1,600 women were dying annually.

At a debate organised recently by Foundation for Community and Capacity Development (Foccad) in Nkhotakota, Sichali said the country is doing well in cervical cancer fight.

“When we just started the programme, Malawi had the highest number of cervical cancer cases. By 2010, when we had our first survey, we found that we were registering not less than 2,600 new cases every year,” he said.

According to Sichali, currently there are more than 200 cervical cancer screening sites and close to 100 treatment sites across the country.

“The figures are going down and our rating globally is also improving,” Sichali said.

One of the cervical cancer screening service providers in Nkhotakota, Anastasia Msaiwale, said sensitisation programmes by Foccad and Nkhotakota Community Radio have helped in increasing the number of women who go for cancer screening.

She added that on a day, they are able to screen more than 20 women.

Tilitonse Foundation gave Foccad £65,000 to help with implementation of the project in Nkhotakota and Salima districts.

Foccad Executive Director Danie Nthara says he is happy with the progressive made so far.

“When we did our research, we found out that most hospitals in Nkhotakota and Salima districts had not started providing cervical cancer interventions. So the project is working with health facilities in the two districts and we are focusing on women living with HIV, sex workers and teen mothers,” he says.

Cervical Cancer Prevention Coordinator for Lilongwe District, Valluri Kondowe, states that because of some religious beliefs and traditions, some women used to shun cervical cancer screening.

On her part, Cervical Cancer District Coordinator for Salima, Precious Phiri, says over 2,000 women have been screened for the disease in the district. She describes the progress a as a “great milestone”.

And Mbedza is thrilled that she is among the women who have responded to persistent calls that they should get screened for the malignant disease.

“When I finally made the decision to go for screening, I was amazed that the procedure was not painful and there was nothing like big equipment being used. I am now proud that I took that important step and know that I am fine,” Mbedza says.

According to health experts, if detected early, cervical cancer is treatable hence the need for women to go for check-ups even way before experiencing its signs.

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