By: Rehema Namukose, Women Deliver
Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in developing countries. In 2009, the government of Mozambique launched the first ever national cervical cancer program, offering screening and treatment as part of reproductive health services. With support from USAID, and working closely with Jhpiego and local partners, the program has increased the number of women accessing screening facilities.
Nostina Ngomane, a 43-year-old widowed mother of two, is one of the program’s beneficiaries. Persuaded to get screened through a cancer awareness presentation at a church gathering, Ngomane has taken on the role of a peer educator and is now working directly with screening sites supported by USAID’s global Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). Working to raise awareness, Ngomane reaches out to other women and talks to them about cervical and breast cancer, HIV, and family planning.
Ngomane was one of the first women in her parish to get screened, saying in an interview with Jhpiego, “I am a curious person, and I am curious about health and how the body works. I was not afraid to get screened; I was happy, I even felt pride.” When she went for the service at one of the MCHIP-supported sites in June 2012, Ngomane was screened through the visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) or vinegar approach - a safe, effective, low-cost method pioneered by Jhpiego and adopted by the Ministry of Health to be used throughout Mozambique. She tested positive for precancerous lesions of the cervix and received immediate cryotherapy treatment (freezing of precancerous cervical cells)—in accordance with the single visit approach that Jhpiego advocates. She is now cancer-free.
Through the Ministry of Health’s National Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program, women in Mozambique have been screened for cervical lesions using 3-5 percent acetic acid and treated with cryotherapy through the single visit approach at basic facilities. The results have been successful:
- Over 94,000 women have been screened for cervical cancer. Of this group, 7,986 (8.5%) have tested positive for precancerous lesions using visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA).
- Of the 7,986 VIA-positive women, 777 (9.7%) had large lesions and were ineligible for cryotherapy, so they were referred for further treatment.
- Of the 7,209 women who screened positive and were eligible for cryotherapy, 3,997 (55.4%) received cryotherapy on the day of screening.
As for Ngomane’s continuing health promotion work at her church, she tells Jhpiego, “most women are positive about getting screened, but some are scared about the possibility of having cancer, of having to face that reality and what it would mean for their lives. Sometimes I wish I could enter the hearts of those women, remove their fear and replace it with my strength.”
For more information on cervical cancer screening programs, please click here.
Photo via UNAMID.