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Health & Community

Open Letter To Zimbabwean Women: Linda Masarira

Linda Masarira
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Linda Masarira

 

By Linda Masarira

 

 

 

January is Cervical Cancer awareness month. Cervical cancer is the 4tg leading cause of death in women globally. It is on record that Zimbabwe is a high cervical cancer burden country, with the cancer being the
leading malignancy among women.

 

 

 

 

Between 2009 and 2018 cancer cases in Zimbabwe doubled according to the national cancer registry. According to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Related Cancers in Zimbabwe report, all women who are 15 years and above are at risk of developing cervical cancer. “Risk factors include early age of sexual intercourse, multiple sexual partners, HIV infection, Sexually Transmitted Infections and smoking. Estimates indicate that every year 2 270 women in Zimbabwe are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 1 451 die from the disease. Cervical cancer accounts for more than a third of deaths in the country.

 

 

 

 

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Often, cervical cancer doesn’t have any symptoms at all in the early stages.

 

 

 

 

But it can cause:

• Bleeding during or after sex, or in between your periods
• Pain during or after sex
• Changes to your vaginal discharge
• Pain in your lower back or pelvis

 

 

 

 

 

What causes cervical cancer?

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a group of viruses called HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV is a very common virus. It’s frequently passed on during foreplay or sex.

 

 

 

 

 

HPV doesn’t cause any symptoms and most infections go away without causing any problems. But if the infection doesn’t go away, it can start to change the skin cells that cover your cervix. Over time, that can lead to cervical cancer.

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to avoid HPV infection because these viruses are so common and so easily transmitted. It’s so common, that most women first get an HPV infection shortly after they first have sex.

 

 

 

 

All sexually active women should go for screening at least once in five years to reduce chances of developing cervical cancer. Your health matters dear woman.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Zimbabwe has scaled up cervical screening services countrywide and established 51 sites which provide Cervical Cancer screening. There are two ways to screen cervical cancer. One can either have a pap smear or VIAC

 

 

 

 

 

A pap smear test is a health examination that can prevent cervical cancer or catch it very early. It’s important to have regular smear tests because cervical cancer generally doesn’t have any symptoms until it is advanced and difficult to cure.

 

 

 

 

You can book a smear test with Population Services Zimbabwe. During the test, a Population Services Zimbabwe healthcare provider will take a sample of cells from your cervix. These cells are then sent to a laboratory and checked for changes to the cells that happen before you develop cervical cancer. Sometimes the cells are tested for HPV first.

 

 

 

 

 

You should have your first smear test between the ages of 21 and 30. Depending on your age and the type of smear test you have, you’ll need your next test within 3 to 5 years.

 

 

 

 

You’ll receive your results between two and three weeks later. If the sample of cells taken during screening shows there might be a problem, your Population Services Zimbabwe provider can talk you through your treatment options.

 

 

 

 

Pap smears screen for pre-cancerous and cancer cells, is been done at several health institutions across the country. A speculum is inserted into the vagina and a spatula is used to gently scrape a sample of cells from the cervix. Cells are then analysed in the laboratory under a microscope to detect the presence of STIs or cancer cells.

 

 

 

 

Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cervicorgraphy (VIAC)
A speculum and swab with acetic acid are inserted into the vagina, after 3 minutes the health practitioner will use a camera to observe for abnormal lesions on the cervix which will turn white.
Some VIAC Centres will offer treatment such as Cryosurgery (freezing of the cells) or LEEP when a problem is found.

The following centres offer VIA
Cancer Centre 60 Livingstone Avenue, call Hildry to make an appointment (04-707444/ 705522).
Parirenyatwa Hospital
Harare Hospital
Edith Opperman Clinic
Highfields Clinic
Warren Park Clinic
Wilkins Hospital
PSI Centres
Masvingo Hospital
Mpilo Hospital
Mutoko Hospital

 

 

 

Attending regular smear tests is an important step to preventing cervical cancer. You can also reduce your chances of getting the disease by:

• Avoiding smoking
• Using condoms during sex
• Limiting your sexual partners

Akuruma nzeve ndewako. Our health matters as women. A healthy woman can sustain a healthy nation. Spread the word, Spread the love. #TogetherWeCan end #CervicalCancer.

Tonnes of love

Linda Tsungirirai Masarira

 

Robert Tapfumaneyi