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CANSA Promotes #OneLessWorry HPV Awareness

23 February 2022 – On 4 March 2022, International Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Day, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) supports the International Papillomavirus Society’s (IPVS) #OneLessWorry campaign, that aims to raise awareness of the virus, and the tools to overcome it, such as screening and vaccination programmes. HPV can cause cancer and is responsible for almost half a million deaths globally each year.

#OneLessWorry #HPV #EliminateCervicalCancer #CANSACervicalCancerAwareness

Lorraine Govender, CANSA’s National Manager: Health Promotion explains the importance of the awareness campaign, “By sharing information and encouraging conversations about HPV we can enable people to lower their risk of contracting HPV and to address the stigma and myths that can act as a barrier to screening and vaccination programmes. Together with the IPVS and partners, we are working to raise the profile of HPV as a cancer-causing virus and help lower the risk of HPV-related cancers.”

HPV-related Cancers

The underlying cause of cervical cancer, which claims the lives of more than 3 000 South African women each year is HPV, which is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and is a very common virus, infecting most people at some point in their lives. There are many types of HPV, two high-risk genotypes of HPV (16 and 18) are responsible for most cervical cancers in SA. in SA. High-risk HPV is estimated to cause 70 percent of cervical cancers; 50 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers; and 20 percent of head and neck cancers. HPV is also responsible for causing cancer of the penis and anus.

Tools to Lower Risk and Screening

The HPV School Vaccination Programme aims to help lower the cervical cancer risk. Persistent infection with HPV may lead to cervical cancer.”

Vaccines have proven to be 90% effective in eliminating the virus. This vaccination is offered to grade 5 girls only in all public (government) schools and special schools, to girls 9-12 years of age. It’s six-month vaccination campaign offered in Feb / Mar and Sep / Oct annually year to ensure completion of the two doses, for full protection. Parents / guardians / caregivers are urged to sign informed consent forms for their girl learners to benefit from the school-based programme.

*Cervical screening through Pap smears detects HPV-related cancers and pre-cancers, making effective treatment possible. Cervical cancer is highly treatable if caught in the early stages and treatment should start as soon as possible for optimum results.”

CANSA in KwaZulu-Natal is supporting the Department of Health’s cross sectional cervical cancer screening of women attending health care facilities. Each health facilities screening target, is 200 women, from 28 February to 4 March 2022.

Prof Motshedisi, (Associate Professor and Head of Department Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Clinical Medicine | College of Health Sciences), known for her role in driving previous cervical cancer screening campaigns, supports this initiative as cervical screening numbers have recently dropped significantly.

“Like every other sector, the gains made in our previous campaign have been noticeably diminished by the pandemic and lockdowns. Rightfully so, all efforts and resources were channelled towards dealing with COVID 19, and as such, most women either didn’t present for their smears, or the health system wasn’t focused enough to ensure that those who were accessing health institutions, received comprehensive care not just for acute illnesses, but for prevention as well. This new effort of targeting all eligible women within our health facilities, is to ensure that no one who deserves screening, is left out under our care,” Motshedisi adds.

Webinar – International HPV Awareness Day

Zodwa Sithole, CANSA’s Head of Advocacy will be one of the panellists at the IPVS’s live High-Level Panel Event on International HPV Awareness Day (4 March 2022). The multi-disciplinary, interactive panel will explore challenges and opportunities in relation to the prevention of HPV-related cancers. Global key opinion leaders will address specific HPV vaccination topics that will help strengthen strategies to realise the global cervical cancer elimination goal and reduce all types of HPV-related cancer. (Registration link here)

How CANSA Helps

Govender encourages women aged 18 to 69 to contact a CANSA Care Centre to book a Pap smear or visit their local clinic or health professional.

“As part of our screening programme, we make use of the 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.”

CANSA in association with the Centre of Community Technology at Nelson Mandela University, created an HPV awareness video to help spread the message of the efficacy of vaccinations and screening to promote early detection. Further educational tools videos include a cervical cancer awareness video promoting the importance of Pap smears and educational radio spots in partnership with Siemens Healthineers. The radio spots and cervical cancer infographics are available in isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, English and Afrikaans, making it possible for a wider group of women from different cultural backgrounds to access this important information.

CANSA Community Education

The National Department of Health has sponsored and partnered with CANSA on  training of Traditional Health Practitioners and CANSA’s Head of Advocacy, Zodwa Sithole is currently running training workshops across the country, to provide education around cervical and other prevalent cancers (including cervical and HPV awareness) , treatment, side effects, the importance of early detection and quick referral for treatment, in the hope that Traditional Health Practitioners will empower their local communities with this information.

*According to the National Department of Health’s Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Policy women aged 30 years and older can 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).

Image credits: Freepik

(For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email Call 011 616 7662 or mobile 082 459 5230.)

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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