In efforts to prevent and control cervical cancer, IMA World Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) has established cervical cancer screening sites in two districts of the Mara Region located in northwestern Tanzania. IMA is implementing the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Program by providing appropriate and quality cervical cancer care and treatment services to include screening and treating pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix according to the national guidelines. In addition, IMA is working with hospitals to build community awareness of cervical cancer risks and successes in treatment to promote screening and treatment uptake and demand for these services. IMA’s cervical cancer prevention program has been in operation since 2011 and to date nearly 5,000 women have been screened and treated.
IMA’s cervical cancer screening and treatment techniques use the visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) approach as well as the Single Visit Approach (SVA) as outlined in the MOHSW’s Tanzania Service Delivery Guidelines for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control. Screenings are offered daily, and if diagnosed positive with pre-cancerous cells, the woman is treated with cryotherapy. SVA allows women to be screened and treated on the same day so they do not have to come back for treatment should they be diagnosed with pre-cancerous cervical cancer cells. This approach is beneficial to the women screened, as health facilities are sometimes very far from their home and having to make multiple trips after diagnosis may result in the women not returning for treatment. This is very unfortunate as cervical cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early.
Due to the growing need for cervical cancer screening and treatment in the rural areas surrounding the health facilities IMA engages in outreach activities providing cervical cancer screening and treatment at the community level. On June 6th, IMA provided an outreach screening where they provided HIV testing as well as cervical cancer screening and treatment at the Tarime District Hospital, located in the Mara Region near the Kenyan border. Originally it was scheduled for two (2) days and 150 women but the turnout was so great, the event was extended to three (3) days and 560 women were screened. Of the 560 women screened, 23 were HIV positive (4%) and 15 were VIA+ (3%), of the 15 that were VIA+, 4 were HIV+ (27%).
Through the years, treatments have been developed for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. These diseases impact the lives of all people especially women in developing countries but in recent years non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer are also being diagnosed. It is so unfortunate that we can save a woman from dying of HIV/AIDS only for her to be diagnosed and die from such a treatable disease as cervical cancer. Through continued support, IMA can maintain the cervical cancer screening and treatment program to save the lives of women in Tanzania.
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