When I was in Zambia I saw ways in which nurses treat cervical cancer in low resource settings. Women who do not benefit from the HPV vaccine and still develop cervical cancer are often subject to visual inspection of the cancer typically with a digital camera followed by cryotherapy to freeze the diseased part of the cervix. Some researchers question whether this approach to cervical cancer treatment is effective in low-and-middle income countries. Globally, the cervical cancer burden falls disproportionately upon women in low and middle-income countries. In fact, approximately 90% of deaths from cervical cancer occur in these countries like Bolivia, Guinea, and Swaziland. Rates are highest in Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Melanesia.Continue reading Radiotherapy will be required to treat cervical cancer in low-and-middle income countries
Roseline had delivered her baby during the chaos of our first day at Mama Baby Haiti, a birthing center for women near CapHaitian, Haiti. Mondays are the busiest day at the center, located on a dirt road just off Highway 1, as it is the intake day for expectant mothers that are new to the program. Three of us had arrived the night before from the early spring of Minnesota weather to be greeted by unseasonable warm Haitian weather – 95 degrees and high humidity.
While we were teaching 10 Haitian nurses and physicians asked about cervical cancer screening in a low resource setting and Roseline was laboring with the aide of a Haitian trained nurse midwife to deliver her healthy baby girl. She graciously agreed to be interviewed only hours after the birth of her child and shortly before she was to depart for her home (patients stay at the center for only 4 hours after an uncomplicated birth).
As is true for many of the 30-40 women who deliver at Mama Baby Haiti each month, she had heard of the program through a friend. She lives 20 minutes away and had been seen for five prenatal visits. She was appreciative of the nurse midwives that seemed to listen to her concerns and the cleanliness of the birthing center. This was Roseline’s first child. The father of her baby was sick and unable to work and she supported herself with side jobs and help from her family. The cost of her care at the center was much reduced from what her care would have cost at the local hospital. Without the services of Mama Baby Haiti, she would have had to deliver at home, either by herself or with an unskilled birth attendant.
Today is World Cancer Day, a day to talk about and discuss cancer and the myths surrounding the global disease. On World Cancer Day we are focusing our efforts on cervical cancer and its effects on women in poor countries.
Last year I met a cervical cancer nurse, Susan Banda, at the N’Gombe Health Clinic in Lusaka, Zambia who said she is treating more and more women every day with cervical cancer. Africa has the highest rates of cervical cancer deaths at 270,000 each year. By 2030 it is estimated that 500,000 women will die from cervical cancer and 98% of those deaths will be in low and middle-income countries. Humanitarian organizations and governments are working to end the amount of cervical cancer deaths and diagnoses. USAID is working toward and funding a single-visit approach to cervical cancer (pdf). Jhpiego is studying the rate of cervical cancer in African women and has implemented programs in Africa since 1995 to fight the disease.
You might have also heard about the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative that was created by the George W. Bush Institute. Partnering with PEPFAR and Susan B. Komen among other implementing and founding partners, the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign will increase the number of HPV vaccines for girls and will help fund cervical cancer treatments.
This World Cancer Day think about the amount of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day. You can help by donating to our partner Jhpiego. For $25 you can provide a cervical cancer screening unit with vinegar, lights, and swabs.
WATCH: See Susan Banda’s cervical screening room, her tools, and her thoughts on working with women who have cervical cancer.