Cervical Cancer ravages Zim Women
5km from Nyashanu bus stop off Rusape road is the remote Zembe village which was home to the late Tarisai Geza (not real name) who succumbed to cervical cancer.
By Best Masinire
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman`s cervix. It develops when uncontrolled multiplication of cells culminating in a mass or tumour occurs in the cervix.
Tarisai died 3 weeks ago aged 27 and left behind a husband and 3 children, John (7), Linda (5) and Tafadzwa (3).
It is believed that Tarisai delayed getting medical treatment from the nearby clinic due to lack of finances. When she eventually did so it was too late.
“She always complained of bleeding after meeting as husband and wife but I had no money to take her to the hospital to get medical help.
“It was only two weeks ago when the situation had worsened when we borrowed money to go to Rusape Clinic and we were told that her situation had become hopeless,” said Timothy her husband in tears.
The story of Tarisai is not an isolated case but a depiction of thousands of cases of women around the country, especially those from rural areas, who are dying of cervical cancer due to lack of access to screening facilities and lack of information on how to prevent the disease.
With the nation pushing to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals, particularly goal number 3 which calls for nations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, there is need for a multi-sectoral approach to the issue of cervical cancer.
Of the 6090 cancer cases recorded by the National Cancer Registry of Zimbabwe (NRCZ) last year, a total 2294 were cervical cancer and 942 were breast cancer cases.
Dr Wisdom Chuma, a Harare based medical doctor attributes most of cervical cancer deaths to lake of adequate information among women on the prevention of the disease.
“Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages and the effective way of preventing it is to go for screening regularly, but the major challenge in the country is that women especially those from rural areas lack information about the disease,” said Dr Wisdom Chuma.
Adds Chuma: “It is recommended that women who are between the ages of 25 and 49 are screened every three years, and women between the ages of 50 and 64 are screened every five years.”
Having said that, the critical question then is what needs to be done to protect Zimbabwean women from being ravaged by this deadly disease?
Headman Zembe from Zembe village urged government to channel resources to educating and informing women on how to prevent cervical cancer.
“It is very sad to lose a life to diseases like cervical cancer that can be prevented. I call for those in authority to channel funds to the dissemination of information about cervical cancer,” he said.
Echoing the same sentiments in a blog post Dr Brighton Chireka, who is a General Practitioner and a Health Commissioner in South Kent Coast in the United Kingdom says: “We have to take ownership of our health and play an active role in preventing unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer.
“Early detection of cancer remains the best strategy in reducing cancer deaths, hence my call to everyone reading this article, to make sure that they present early to their doctor.
“Do not leave it until it’s too late as the chance of surviving depends on the stage of cervical cancer.”
There are a few health centers predominantly in urban areas offering cervical cancer screening using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cerviography (VIAC) in Zimbabwe.
Some of the health centers include United Bulawayo Hospitals, Newlands Clinic, Edith Opperman Clinic in Mbare, Warren Park Polyclinic, Highfield Polyclinic, Masvingo Provincial Hospital, Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, Spilhaus and Cancer Association of Zimbabwe (CAZ)
The statistics by the NCRZ make a sad reading considering that women constitute 52 percent of the country’s population and a larger number of them live in rural areas.
Dr Chuma says to minimize the scourge, there is need to establish cervical cancer screening centers in rural areas considering the fact that most women have to travel to urban areas to be screened, which is expensive for most of them.
“Cell changes in the cervix can be detected at a very early stage and treatment can reduce the risk of cervical cancer developing.
“That is the reason why women are encouraged to see their doctors early and also to go for routine screening. This brings us to a critical point that screening centers have to be put in rural areas as well,” he said
The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe says since most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a virus often spread through sex, it is advisable for women to avoid multiple sexual partners or to practice safe sex.
Shading more light, Newton Mudzingwa, a Harare based herbalist says to minimise cervical cancer deaths there is need for the integration of indigenous knowledge systems and pure science.
“http://263chat.com/2016/08/cervical-cancer-ravages-zim-women/As herbalists we have more success stories in treating cancers compared to doctors in the medical field but you find that most people are discouraged to come to us for treatment.
“There is need to integrate our indigenous knowledge and pure sciences,” he said
Mudzingwa adds that: “people should go to qualified herbalists for treatment not those ones putting herbs in their vaginal area.
“Women should also desist from using vaginal tightening creams as they are also causing the increase in cervical cancer.”