Cervical cancer has until date remained one of the major health problems affecting women across the globe. The situation is, even more, preoccupying in areas where screening programmes and services are absent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says “cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women, with an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018 representing 6.6% of all female cancers. Approximately 90% of deaths from cervical cancer occurred in low and middle-income countries.”
Despite the high mortality rate from cervical cancer globally, the trend could be reduced through a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, early diagnosis, effective screening and treatment programmes.
It is with this view that the Women’s Health Programme (WHP) of the CBC Health Services has embarked on an awareness and screening campaign in some of the institution’s health facilities in Cameroon throughout January 2019 to culminate with the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
Beneficiary, Surell Shutan screened at Nkwen Baptist Health Center in Bamenda says “When I heard of the screening and awareness campaign, I deemed it necessary to come have myself screened. My health is of utmost importance to me.” Now aware of her status, Surell is launching an appeal to other women who are lagging behind to come and be screened.
Early diagnosing of cervical cancer and providing access to effective treatment can significantly improve the likelihood of survival.
Divine Njodzeven, Coordinator of the Women’s Health Programme at NBHC notes that cervical cancer is a public health challenge and a threat to the health of women, with over 2000 cases diagnosed in Cameroon yearly, and with more than half dying. He regrets that though being a preventable and treatable condition, unfortunately, many are not aware of the condition. “Faced with such, WHP is very intentional on raising awareness and screening,” avows Divine.
Nkwen Baptist Health Center is paying particular attention to secondary level prevention of cervical cancer given that once a woman develops cervical cancer it takes millions and lots of resources to treat. The health center has comprehensive approach to preventing cervical cancer which includes community education, vaccination and social mobilization. This approach is in line with WHO recommendation.
Peaceful Funeh, another Beneficiary testifies that she came for the screening exercise because it is important to know one’s status. “These days, it has come to my notice that you may be physically strong but illness and diseases are eating you up. I call on any woman out there to follow my example,” she appealed. Peaceful remarked that knowing your status only gives you the option to make informed choices early on your health.
Noticing that poverty and lack of finance remain major barriers to access healthcare and services, NBHC during the one month screening campaign subsidized the cost of screening with a drop from 4000 FCFA during normal consultations to 2000 FCFA throughout the awareness and screening campaign period.
Cancer Research UK states that “cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way. The cervix is the lower part of the womb. It is the opening to the vagina from the womb. The main symptom is unusual bleeding from the vagina. Finding changes in the cells through screening can help to prevent cancer developing.”