Cervical cancer still major cause of death amongst women – Deputy Minister of Health
By Clifton Movirongo.
As January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, the Ministry of Health and Social Services is urging local women to be regularly screened for cancer as the ministry will conduct cervical cancer screening sessions at all public health facilities around the country from 23 January to 3 February 2023.
This comes as ministry officials said they want to create awareness and increase demand for screening and subsequent treatment of those women at imminent risk.
Speaking at a press briefing about Cervical Cancer Awareness this week, the Deputy Minister, Esther Muinjangue, said January is commemorated as World Cervical Cancer Awareness Month while World Cancer Day is commemorated on 4 February each year. Namibia joins the rest of the world in these important commemorations.
“Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth leading cause of death amongst women, and in Namibia it is actually the second leading cause of death amongst women,” Muinjangue said, adding that this condition is considered as an AIDS defining illness and can be completely prevented through HPV vaccination, early screening and treatment.
According to Muinjangue, as part of the acceleration activities, January every year has been set aside to commemorate cervical cancer. “This year, the Zambezi region will be hosting the main activities which include a march in Katima Mulilo on Monday, 30 January and a screening campaign from Tuesday, 31 January to Friday, 3 February,” she said.
“I urge all women between the age of 20 to 49 to visit our health facilities and get screened for cervical cancer,” the Deputy Health Minister added.
Cheryl Amoroso, PEPFAR Country Coordinator, at the ministry Cervical Cancer Awareness press briefing, said getting screened for cervical cancer is a lifesaving step in women’s lives.
“That is a milestone worth celebrating, and I am glad to be with you today to reflect on this and to say that the United States Government is proud to work with MoHSS to strengthen access to cervical cancer screening and treatment in Namibia, building upon our mutual goal to make healthcare accessible for all,” Amoroso said.
According to her, the purpose of cervical cancer screening is to identify precancerous cells; cells that are not yet cancerous but if left untreated, may become cancerous.
“Prevention is always better than cure and in this instance, it is no different. It is quicker, simpler, and safer for your health to identify and remove precancerous cells than to treat cancerous ones,” she added.
The Centre for Disease Control Namibia, through support from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has worked with the ministry to train healthcare providers across the country to know how to screen and treat women for cervical cancer, noted the PEPFAR Country Coordinator.
She added that CDC Namibia also worked with the ministry to enable treatment of early precancerous cells to occur at the facility where the woman is screened, and to increase the referral points across the country where a doctor will remove the dangerous cells if they have become larger. “This has made it quicker, simpler, and easier to prevent invasive cervical cancer because together, we have made it possible for women to access screening and treatment services,” she explained.
Amoroso noted that getting screened once is not enough. “Starting from age 20 for HIV positive women and repeated every 3 years, and age 25 for HIV negative women and repeated every 5 years, we need to be regularly screened to ensure any issue is caught early while still easily treatable.”