Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
ZIMBABWE marks the beginning of the cervical cancer awareness week today with calls for more resources to be directed towards treatment of the disease.
The month of January was set aside to raise awareness and generate demand for the uptake of cervical cancer services. In Zimbabwe, cervical cancer screening is offered for free in most government health facilities, but most women, including those living with HIV, are not aware of the services.
Those that test positive sometimes fail to access treatment as they are not easily accessible, especially in rural areas.
The main cause of cervical cancer is persistent infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV), an extremely common family of viruses that are transmitted through sexual contact.
Zimbabwe Health Interventions (ZHI) technical officer Dr Ngonidzashe Ganje said more awareness is needed so that more women get screened for cervical cancer.
“We have managed to reach out to women for cancer screening and although we can treat some with pre-cancer lesions, some who test positive need cancer treatment not readily available even in public hospitals. As we start this week, we call on more women to continue screening for early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer,” he said.
“We call for more resources to be availed so that even after screening, women are able to access the lifesaving treatment.
Cervical cancer can be treated and we can address the prevalence by ensuring that every woman tests and that those who need treatment have access.”
In a statement to mark the beginning of the awareness week ZHI said: “Zimbabwe has a high burden of cervical cancer and according to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, this cancer leads among cancers in women, and constitutes 33.2 percent of the cancer burden in this population with more than 1 400 cases in 2020.
The World Cancer Research Fund adds that Zimbabwe has the fifth highest burden of cervical cancer in the world.
“Over a thousand women die from the disease in the country every year, making it the most common cause of cancer deaths in women in the country.
Women living with HIV have a six-fold higher risk of cervical cancer than women without HIV, and cervical cancer is classified as an Aids-defining condition.” – @thamamoe.