The HPV vaccine has proved to be an invaluable development against the development of cervical cancer in women. It is already saving lives.
However vinegar, the same thing you find in your household pantry, is also vital to making sure that lives are not lost to cervical cancer. With just a simple swab of vinegar, a medical professional can detect whether or not a woman has cervical cancer. The immediate feedback, ease of use and cheap cost means that more women will be diagnosed earlier.
Lauren Bohn recently wrote about its impact on women in Zambia for The Daily Beast.
For the N’gombe health clinic’s community health-care manager, Ignicious Bulango, the method is indeed transformative, but the country still has a long way to go. “Cervical cancer, and cancer in general, isn’t necessarily on the radar like malaria and HIV/AIDS for the majority of Zambians and most of Africa, but we’re getting there,” he said. “It’s a process.”
Gabrielle Fitzgerald if the Director of Program Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She travelled to Myanmar last week with Population Services International, an NGO that has worked in Myanmar for nearly 20 years. Dr. Aye Aye Mu is a health provider in the SUN Quality Health Network, a health franchise run by PSI. This originally appeared in the Impatient Optimists blog.
Dr. Aye Aye Mu runs a thriving medical practice in the North Okkalapa Township in Myanmar’s capital of Yangon. Her office can be found after winding through labyrinthine, rutted roads, filled with puddles from the morning’s torrential rain. She gave up her middle-class existence to move with her family to this neighborhood, so she could be closer to the people that needed her most.
One of those people is Ma Ni, who is dying of cervical cancer on the floor of her two-room home near Dr. Aye Aye Mu’s office. Dying of any kind of cancer anywhere in the world is sad, but this case is particularly heart-rending because cervical cancer is so easily preventable.
This special edition of Impact, the global health magazine of PSI, was produced in partnership with Women Deliver and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. This issue, launched in conjunction with the Women Deliver 2013 Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, brings insightful dialogue on the value of investing in girls and women’s health. Our hope is that this issue will call attention to the urgent need for increased investment in girls and women in the developing world.
Girls and women in the developing world are losing the fight against cervical cancer because we have failed to close deadly gaps in prevention, screening and treatment that could spare their lives and end this disease.
More than 85 percent of the estimated 275,000 women who die from cervical cancer globally every year live in low- and middle income countries.
As global leaders convene in Kuala Lumpur for the third Women Deliver conference, the American Cancer Societyand PSI are proud to join forces with other critical members of civil society to raise our collective voices and amplify the message that no woman should die from cervical cancer. We know what it takes to save lives from this disease – and we have a moral obligation to ensure that all girls and women, regardless of their location, benefit from this knowledge.
CSIS traveled to Zambia to document the ways that cervical cancer impacts women in the country. Janet Fleischman and Julia Nagel spoke with provincial coordinator for the cervical cancer screening program Dr. Joan Katema. She told them that the attention has been on issues like HIV/AIDS, while women continue to die from cervical cancer. “But we’d still find that despite [women] accessing the ARVs and all the services that come with the ART clinic, they were still dying from cervical cancer,” she said.
Watch the video to learn more and here is a further explanation of what is being done in Zambia to address cervical cancer.
The Zambian government has also been very engaged in PRRR, led by the first lady, Dr. Christine Kaseba Sata, an obstetrician and gynecologist herself. The impact of this leadership is apparent, according to a nurse supervisor with the cervical cancer program: “We’ve been encouraged a lot by our women leaders in this country… including the First Lady. She’s been talking about cervical cancer screening and [its] importance a lot on TV, on radio, and so as a result, we’ve seen that a lot of women have reacted positively, received the message and have come in for screening.”
The rise of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty during the past 50 years is a story of tremendous, unprecedented human progress. A significant factor in this success has been the global community’s coordinated effort to tackle serious health and economic barriers, like HIV, malaria, pneumonia, and lack of access to family planning.
During the last two decades, the number of deaths of children under 5 has fallen by about half. The conversation about eradicating polio is now focused on only three countries and seems within reach. Even regarding HIV and AIDS, the scourge of a generation, we may be seeing the beginning of the end. The call for an “AIDS-free generation” seems more plausible now than it did only a few years ago.
Much work still remains to be done in these areas, but the foundation of multi-sector collaboration around the issues is an encouraging sign. It is imperative that we apply this same degree of coordination and sense of urgency to the growing burden of cancer in the developing world — a health and economic crisis that is going largely unaddressed.
In our new podcast series PSI’s Sally Cowal and Clementine Noblecourt discuss interventions that are working to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in Africa. Have a listen!
By: Alexandra Steverson, Program Assistant for the Southern Africa Region*
Globally, one woman dies every two minutes from cervical cancer. As the second most common cancer among women, there are 530,000 new cases every year. The developing world is disproportionately burdened by this disease - 86% of cases occur in developing countries where prevention services are limited or unavailable. In some environments, the mortality rate is as high as 52%.
We know that infection with one of many strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a leading cause of cervical cancer. The good news is that it can be prevented. Screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions is the most cost effective method of preventing the disease and creating positive health impact in low-resource settings. However, less than 5% of women in developing countries have accessed screening services. With simple, low-cost interventions, organization like PSI can improve health outcomes for a population that is often neglected, women around the world.
This month, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) recognizes Cervical Health Awareness Month. Cervical cancer infects an estimated 12,000 American women each year, of with more than 4,000 die. It is an even greater burden in developing countries. More than 80% of deaths caused by cervical cancer deaths take place in developing countries and it significantly impacts the poor.
The good news is that a vaccine against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer, can greatly reduce the number of infections. “Cervical cancer is preventable through vaccines and screening tests. Making sure these tools reach the most vulnerable women is critical, of course, but so are efforts to educate women about the disease. Accurate, culturally-sensitive information and access to care are an unbeatable combination,” said ASHA/NCCC President and CEO Lynn B. Barclay in a press release calling for the prevention of cervical cancer.
The Union for International Cancer Control is sponsoring a pair of Cervical Cancer Action webinars this month that will lead discussions on addressing the problem of cervical cancer in Africa and South America. Members of the PSI team will be participating in discussion and we hope that you will join us.
Check out the details below:
A cervical cancer free Africa: regional solutions for lasting change
Wednesday, 16 January
Webinar will last 90 minutes, beginning at 9:00 AM EST
Check the time of the webinar in your country
This webinar will be presented in English.
Early efforts to improve screening and early treatment for women and to introduce HPV vaccine to girls are beginning to pick up speed across the continent. Many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are taking bold steps to prevent cervical cancer, but their action may be impeded by common myths and misconceptions. During this 90-minute discussion, regional experts will describe the progress made to date in Africa and describe emerging opportunities, available expertise, and tools to help countries reshape the future of this tragic, and entirely preventable, disease.