Eliminate Cervical Cancer Through Early Detection
CANSA reminds women of the vital role regular Pap smears play in the detection, and elimination, of cervical cancer. Nearly 11 000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in South Africa, making it the second most common cancer among women as well as having the highest death rate among women.
Cervical cancer develops when the cervix, the lower, narrow, end of the uterus, becomes infected with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV 16 and 18 being the most detected types.
Lorraine Govender, CANSA’s National Manager: Health Promotion, explains that the HPV virus lives on the skin and can be transmitted through skin-to-skin, or sexual contact. Once the cervix is infected, pre-cancerous lesions may develop and if left untreated, evolve into invasive cancers.
CANSA encourages all women who are sexually active to have regular Pap smears – a painless procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and examined under a microscope – that can help detect any abnormalities caused by HPV which can lead to cancer.
“It’s also very important that women do not stay away when they receive abnormal results. The gap between screening and treatment is very high in South Africa. Around 50% of women who present with pre-cancerous signs are referred for further follow-up such as a colposcopy and biopsy. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and is highly treatable, when caught in the early stages, with treatment being able to start as soon as possible,” says Govender.
Unfortunately, most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today have not had regular Pap smears or followed up on abnormal results. Myths, misconceptions, and misinformation surrounding cervical cancer and HPV can be highly damaging, giving rise to stigma as well as negatively affecting the decisions women take when it comes to prevention, seeking help and accessing treatment. Factors such as lack of financial resources, transport and child-care also prevent women from accessing health care facilities to be screened or to go back for further medical assistance.
As part of CANSA’s cancer screening services, Pap smears are available at most CANSA Care Centres across South Africa for an affordable fee of R380 – which includes a clinical breast screening and the laboratory fees. Should any abnormalities be detected, CANSA can help with a referral within the public health care sector or to a medical practitioner.
CANSA in KwaZulu-Natal is partnering with the Netcare Umhlanga Hospital and a team of doctors led by gynae oncologist Dr K Govender on Friday, 19 August 2022 and aim to carry out Pap Smear screening on 250 women.
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).
CANSA also supports the Department of Health’s HPV School Vaccination Programme to help lower the cervical cancer risk. All females in the age group of 9 – 26 years (provided they are not sexually active) may be vaccinated and women who have had the vaccination should continue to be screened for cervical cancer.
Although cervical cancer is mainly caused by HPV, other increased risks include being overweight, inactive, consuming alcohol, poor dietary habits, smoking and exposure to chemicals. Women with HIV infection also have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Furthermore, CANSA advises delaying sexual debut, reducing the number of sexual partners, and increased condom use. Medical male circumcision helps to reduce Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) acquisition and transmission and is protective for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in males, thus reducing the risk of initial or re-infection of HPV among women.
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.
Anyone diagnosed with cervical cancer can contact a local CANSA Care Centre to access CANSA’s care and support programmes, such as medical equipment hire, wigs, counselling, tele counselling, support groups, online support groups and resources, as well as CANSA Care Homes where patients receiving treatment far from home can stay during treatment. Support and information can also be obtained via the CANSA Help Desk on 0800 22 6622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at email email@example.com or call 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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