One day, while going about her daily activities in her home area in Nakuru, Kenya, 26 year-old Teresia Wangui happened upon a group of people providing medical services. They particularly seemed to be targeting women and since she had a few minutes to spare, she made way to the tent where they were. It was this decision that would save her life –literally.
On offer at the medical camp were mobile cervical cancer screening services by the Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK) –Nakuru branch. FHOK is the IPPF Africa Region Member Association in Kenya.
“When I approached the tent, I found out that they were offering free cervical cancer screening services, and I decided to get tested too because I felt that I needed to know my status,” says Teresia.
It was a decision that paid off because Teresia was found to have pre-cancerous lesions. To help allay the development of these lesions into cervical cancer, she was referred for further treatment - cryotherapy, which is a treatment for abnormal cells on the cervix.
Cancer of the cervix is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) through sexual contact, with most people acquiring the infection shortly after the onset of unprotected sexual contact. However, pre-cancer lesions of the cervix are easily detectable by a trained medical provider. Regular screening tests can lead to early detection and treatment, which makes cervical cancer highly preventable.
“Had I not made that split decision to pop into the medical camp by FHOK, I probably would not be here sharing my story with you today. I’m glad that I was able to be screened and receive treatment. I would advise all ladies to go for cervical cancer screening even if you are young and have not had children, since it affects everyone who is sexually active. I would also like to tell my fellow women not to wait for services to be brought to their doorstep. Cervical cancer screening services are also offered in many clinics, so it is your responsibility to undertake regular checks. You are the one responsible for your own health,” she says.
Cervical cancer remains a major public health problem in developing countries, especially in Africa where an estimated 53,000 women die of the disease every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In response to this, FHOK implements the Cervical Cancer Screening and Preventative Therapy (CCSPT) Initiative in different parts of the country through its static clinics. The CCSPT Initiative is aimed at improving reproductive health outcomes for women, with specific regard to cervical cancer.
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.
Story by FHOK and Maryanne W. Waweru, IPPF Africa Region