CANSA Committed to Cervical Cancer Awareness & Support
1 March 2021 – CANSA launches its Cervical Cancer Awareness and Support Campaign on International Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Day on 4 March 2021. HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer in women, resulting in 300 000 deaths due to cervical cancer globally per annum.(1) View more information on Cervical Cancer…
CANSA aims to address awareness of HPV and the link with cervical cancer, educate regarding risk factors and symptoms of cervical cancer while promoting early detection through screening. A further goal is to enable patients and their families to understand their rights within the public health care system and provide palliative support throughout treatment.
Why Cervical Cancer?
We are dedicated to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer. Following a Call to Action in May 2018 from the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros, 194 countries collectively resolved to end needless suffering from a cancer that is both preventable and curable. The world already has the necessary tools; they just need to be made accessible.
Elize Joubert, CANSA CEO, states, “CANSA is dedicated to educating women about one of the most preventable cancers. In Africa, cervical cancer is the cancer women die of most. This should not occur where vaccination against HPV and cancer screening are implemented correctly. As part of our 90th anniversary milestone, CANSA is committed to providing Pap smears to 9 000 women. We’ll also collaborate with partners in the health care sector, parents, schools and traditional leaders and -health care practitioners to educate on how to lower the risk for cervical cancer and how to support those diagnosed with it.”
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths, and the second most common diagnosed cancer (excluding basal cell carcinoma) among South African women. It’s caused primarily by infection with HPV, with strains 16 and 18 most frequently associated with the development of cervical cancer.(2) HIV infected women are at an increased risk for HPV infection at an earlier age (13-18 years) and are diagnosed with cervical cancer at an earlier age (15-49 years).(3) The National Department of Health’s Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Policy allows for women aged 30 years and older to have three Pap smears in their lifetime at 30, 40 and 50 at public health clinics at no cost (non -symptomatic). If women experience abnormal symptoms, they can request a Pap smear at local government clinics. HIV positive women are eligible for a Pap smear at diagnosis and every three years thereafter if negative for cervical cancer (yearly if screening is positive). (2)
Screening to Lower the Risk
“As part of our screening programme, CANSA makes use of the most trusted and clinically proven liquid-based cytology method when collecting a sample during a Pap smear. Pap smears help us identify abnormal cells on the cervix (lower womb) caused by HPV which can lead to cancer. Should the result indicate an abnormality, CANSA can help with a referral within the public health care sector or to a medical practitioner,” adds Joubert.
Women aged 18 to 69 years are encouraged to contact their CANSA Care Centre to make an appointment and to mark it as an annual event on their calendar. It’s very important that women do not stay away when they receive abnormal results. Cervical cancer is highly treatable if caught in the early stages and treatment should start as soon as possible for optimum results.
Joubert explains, “Women affected by cervical cancer need to know they are not alone, and that there is hope when it comes to overcoming a diagnosis. We pledge to assist women who utilise our Pap smear services as well as others diagnosed, to help them understand and guide them through the process of further investigation, and if necessary, a referral to a medical practitioner. We’re here to support, advocate for and to educate cervical cancer patients to cope better with their diagnosis, and to understand how to access vital services for better treatment outcomes, and to help ensure that they have access to counselling and pain medication during treatment.”
Dispel Myths and Stigma
“We will also work to help dispel myths and address stigma associated with cervical cancer through our campaign. Myths, misconceptions and misinformation surrounding cervical cancer can be highly damaging, giving rise to stigma as well as negatively affecting the decisions we take when it comes to prevention, seeking help and accessing treatment. CANSA will be making material and resources available to the public as the campaign is rolled out,” Joubert concludes.
(1) International Papilloma Virus Society (IPVS) 2021 Campaign Guide
(2) National Department of Health South Africa (2017) ‘Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Policy’
(3) Cohen PA, JhingranA, Oaknin A, Denny L. Cervical cancer. Lancet. 2019; 393 (10167): 169-82
Image credits: Freepik
CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support. We offer a Tele Counselling service in seven languages free of charge. We also supply patient care and support in the form of 8 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.
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