Ladies !!!! Ladies!!! take time to be examined for breast cancer. Early detection can save your life. Early signs of breast cancer can be a lump in the breast, a painful breast or armpit or blood stained discharge or clear fluid discharge from the nipple or changes in the size, shape or contour of the breast. Should one experience tingling, itching, increased sensitivity or burning pain in the breast or nipples and persistent fever or chills one needs to be examined just to rule out breast cancer because these signs and symptoms could be due to other conditions.
This month take time to go for screening, your health matters!!!
As WASN we are greatly concerned with the stock outs of TB medicines in the country. TB is preventable, curable and can be contained if all stakeholders play their part.
Stock outs should concern everyone as there will be drug resistance which results in catastrophic results.
The question is who should have seen that the country’s stock levels are dwindling and did not do the honorable thing to order on time?
We hope that the supply intended for the country arrives soon.
WASN conducted an awareness campaign on Gender Based Violence (GBV)during the 16 Days of Activism. WASN held the community dialogue with support group members and various stakeholders on 8th of December 2017 in Gokwe South District at Musita Clinic. The campaign sensitized the support group members about GBV as well as educating the members on the action they could take. WASN invited the ZRP Victim Friendly Unit to enlighten the members on the Domestic Violence Act and other supporting legislations in dealing with perpetrators. WASN pursued the theme “Leave No one Behind to end Gender Based Violence”.
The following stakeholders DAC,OI, PMTCT, VFU, the Nutritionist,the Community nurse, Environmentalist, Kraal Herd, Headman, Councilors and MASO graced the event as they addressed the support group members on various issues. The stakeholders explained their roles, access to services offered to the community and the challenges they encounter to deliver the services.
Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN)held various trainings in Gokwe South District at Musita Clinic with two support groups of 80 women and girls,20 men and boys making a total of 100. During the first quarter WASN conducted a baseline survey on knowledge levels of support group members which indicated their challenges at family,community and health institutions.There were gaps in information regards HIV and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and low literacy levels. The health workers also sighted challenges of inadequate staff to deal with overwhelming numbers of clients resulting in burn out.
For these two groups 20% did not attend school prompting WASN to do most of the training using the vernacular language (Shona). Another observation during the training was 9% of women and girls did not have national identification and birth certificates contributing to unequal access to opportunities like voting and access of loans.
In the second and third quarter WASN conducted trainings on Leadership, Sexual, Reproductive Health, Rights, Communication, Assertiveness and Advocacy. The trainings capacitated the members to apply knowledge on SRHR, communicate and being assertive has led them to think critically and analytically on why certain issues are handled in certain ways. They have advocated for different issues like food allocation,land allocation and confidentiality during treatment.
1. What is cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
2. What is Cancer of the Cervix
Cervical cancer affects the entrance to the uterus (womb). The cervix is the narrow part of the lower uterus, often referred to as the neck of the womb.
3. What are the symptoms ofCervical Cancer?
In the early stages of cervical cancer, a person may experience no symptoms at all. As a result, women should have regular cervical smear tests.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
bleeding between periods
bleeding after sexual intercourse
bleeding in post-menopausal women
discomfort during sexual intercourse
smelly vaginal discharge
vaginal discharge tinged with blood
4. What are the causes of cervical cancer?
Cancer is the result of the uncontrolled division and growth of abnormal cells. Most of the cells in our body have a set lifespan and when they die, new cells are produced to replace them. Abnormal cells can have two problems they do not die and they continue dividing.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a major cause of the main types of cervical cancer.HPV is common. Most sexually active women come into contact with HPV during their lifetime. But for most the virus causes no harm and goes away on its own. At least 12 types of HPV are considered high risk for cancer of the cervix. Two of these types (HPV 16 and HPV 18) cause about 7 out of 10 cancers of the cervix (70%).
Women are more at risk of developing pre cancerous cervical cells or cervical cancer if they have persistent infections with high risk types of HPV.
5. Are there different types or stages of Cervical Cancer?
There are main two types of cervical cancer and are named after the type of cell that becomes cancerous. There is squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma
Squamous cell cancer
Squamous cells are the flat, skin like cells that cover the outer surface of the cervix (the ectocervix). Between 7 and 8 out of every 10 cervical cancers (70 to 80%) are squamous cell cancer.
Adenocarcinoma is a cancer that starts in the gland cells that produce mucus.The cervix has glandular cells scattered along the inside of the passageway that runs from the cervix to the womb (the endocervical canal). It is less common than squamous cell cancer, but has become more common in recent years. More than 1 in every 10 cervical cancers (more than 10%) are adenocarcinoma. It is treated in the same way as squamous cell cancer of the cervix.
Adenosquamous cancers are tumours that contain both squamous and glandular cancer cells. This is a rare type of cervical cancer which makes up between 20 to 30% of adenocarcinoma.
Small cell cancer
Small cell cancer of the cervix is a very rare type of cervical cancer. Fewer than 3 in every 100 women (3%) diagnosed with cervical cancer have this type. It is called small cell because under a microscope the cells appear small with a large nucleus. Small cell cancers tend to grow quickly and need to be treated early.
Very rarely, other types of cancer can occur in the cervix. An example is lymphoma, which is a cancer of the tubes and glands that filter body fluids and fight infections (the lymphatic system).
6. Who is at risk of getting cervical cancer?
Having Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) increases the risk of developing cervical cancer. This risk might be reduced in women who are on Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
The risk of cervical cancer might be increased in women who have other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) alongside HPV. Women with both HPV and Chlamydia have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
Smoking tobacco increases risk of getting cervical cancer
Giving birth at a very young age
Women who give birth before the age of 17 are significantly more likely to develop cervical cancer compared with women who have their first baby after the age of 25.
Risk of cervical cancer is increased if one has a mother or sister who has had cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer risk is higher in survivors of vaginal, vulva, kidney, urinary tract, or skin cancers. One of the reasons for this could be previous radiotherapy treatment.
7. How can one protect herself from Cervical Cancer?
One can reduce the chances of developing Cervical Cancer by practicing safe sex, using condoms and limiting number of sexual partners.
Having regular Pap smear tests so that the cells of the cervix can be checked to ensure no abnormalities are present and no precancerous cells exist.Regular screening can pick up changes in the cervix before they develop into a cancer. Screening is very important for women taking the pill.
Having a vaccination against HPV infection and leading a healthy lifestyle by eating a well balanced diet and not smoking.
8. Where can one access Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIAC) services in Zimbabwe
General hospitals and clinics
9. What is a Papanicolau (Pap) smear test?
Pap smear test is a simple procedure that looks for abnormal cell changes in the cervix.
10. How often can one get VIAC and Pap smear test?
For PAP smear test should begin at age 21, routine screening recommended every 3years up to age 65.
For VIAC screening should be done once every 5years, but for women who are HIV Positive once every year.
With the high number of women affected by cervical cancer in Zimbabwe, the Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN) recognises the need to complement increased awareness to current government initiatives.
Cervical cancer kills more women in Zimbabwe than any other type of cancer. According to the 2016 Human Papiloma Virus centre’s Zimbabwe report 24.7% of women in Zimbabwe’s general population are estimated to be HPV positive. 17.7% of those women are estimated to be HIV positive. Despite these statistics and death rates, the response to its prominence in Zimbabwe remains a concern.
WASN is a women’s organisation that aims to contribute to improving sexual health and rights awareness of women in Zimbabwe. Under the banner of the Access to information campaign, the organisation will be engaging the Ministry of Health and Child Care to raise current efforts to improve women’s health seeking behaviour like cervical cancer screening particularly in the rural areas.
“As WASN we saw the need to embark on this campaign after a snap survey during our outreach programmes that indicated that cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in late or at advanced stages. The reasons that we noted include lack of sufficient information on the free cancer screening at selected health centres, inadequate information on reproductive health care, and the cost of accessing early treatment.” said Anna-Colletor Penduka.
Through this information campaign, WASN intends to find out the current information raising activities that the ministry is currently undertaking. This, the organisation, hopes will enable womens organisations to support the ministry in improving responses to cervical cancer in the country.
WASN hope that the campaign will improve women and girls’ access to the health care facilities and services for cervical cancer screening that are not only available but and affordable .