By Maryanne W. Waweru
Kellen Mbabazi, 25, is married with two children aged 10 years and 4 years. She recently faced one of her greatest fears: getting screened for cervical cancer.
“Cancer is a big deal in the community today. There are so many people -including women that I know who have the disease. I also know of families that have lost a loved one to cancer. For a long time, I was so terrified of testing for cervical cancer because I was scared I would get a positive result. I imagined that this would be an automatic death sentence for me, yet I’m still young and with a great future ahead of me. I still plan on getting more children, so I didn’t want to be told that I have cervical cancer,” she confesses.
However, one day, Kellen decided to take charge of her own health and mustered the courage to get screened for cervical cancer, having learnt of its importance through a community outreach conducted by Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) –Kampala branch.
“During the outreach, I heard one of the mobilizers say that with cancer, the key is to detect it early because when it is discovered at a late stage, then it is what might kill you. This information convinced me and that is why I decided to screen for cervical cancer,” she says.
Kellen then went to the nearby Kiswa Health Center in Kampala, where she met a team from Reproductive Health Uganda who screened her for cervical cancer. Following her experience, which she says was eye-opening, Kellen then decided to become a cervical cancer mobilizer.
“My mother and my sisters were the first people I encouraged to come for screening. I then informed my friends and encouraged them to test too. This is something that I will continue doing, because I have realized that it is not the disease that kills people, but fear for testing. Yet, early screening is one of the best solutions to cervical cancer. This is the information that I have been sharing with my female networks, and I will not relent in doing so,” she says.
RHU implements the Cervical Cancer Screening and Preventative Therapy (CCSPT) Initiative, which uses static clinics and outreaches as the main service delivery modes. The CCPT initiative aims at maximizing the number of cancer services offered to women through a validated, low-cost screening and preventative therapy approach. Screening is carried out using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) -an evidence-based and affordable alternative approach for cervical cancer screening in low-resource settings. The CCSPT Initiative offers instant treatment for clients with pre-cancerous lesions using cryotherapy –a method that involves freezing of precancerous lesions.
Ms. Annet Kyarimpa, the Special Projects Coordinator in the IPPFAR Member Association in Uganda –Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) says that CCSPT Initiative outreach activities provide the biggest bulk of clients (over 75%).
The success of this approach is largely attributed to the fact that the outreaches are conducted in lower level health facilities (including government health facilities) that provide a conducive service delivery environment.
Maryanne W. Waweru is the Communications Officer, IPPF Africa Regional Office.