Monday, February 26, 2024

Cervical cancer biggest killer of Botswana women

The Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MoH), Shenaaz El-Halabi, revealed this week that cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer affecting women, is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in Botswana.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Halabi said in the wake of such a pandemic, it only makes sense for women to adopt preventative measures. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) cervical cancer is the most common cancer among Botswana women aged between 15 and 44 years.

Statistics show that about 85 percent of women in Botswana seek medical assistance when the cancer is at an advanced stage and cannot be cured.

“Adopting a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, good hygiene, exercise, and regular screening for cancer can delay the onset of fully fledged conditions,” said Halabi. She added that it is worrisome that tobacco use among women is on the rise, when smocking is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer.

Meanwhile, the cause of cervical cancer, human papilloma virus (HPV), is now established and simpler alternative screening methods have been proven acceptable and safe.

As such, the MoH adopted a new five-year strategy, dubbed the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme (NCCPP), to scale up comprehensive cervical cancer prevention and control.

The 2004-9 National Cervical Cytology screening method focused primarily on public sensitization and roll-out of wide scale cytological screening but not treating women with positive results.

The programme that will run till 2016 directs particular focus on the scale-up of a robust prevention screening and treatment programme. “

Before, we could only do the tests to establish if one had cancer or not, but now we can treat the cancer patients,” said Halabi.

The strategy addresses the cervical cancer disease continuum through primary and secondary prevention, tertiary care and incorporates are carefully considered monitoring and evaluation plan.
The long term strategy for control of cervical cancer in Botswana is based on primary prevention through immunization, secondary prevention through an effective screening programme based on the ‘See and treat’ model.┬á

In the same vein, the Programme manager for the NCCP, Dr Mimi Raesima, said they are looking into investing in the sophisticated equipment like visual inspection with the use of acetic acid, to move from the Pap smear as it has not worked well to adopting the HPV DNA testing. In addition, she said they are looking into investing into the histology laboratory.

MoH is working with the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) to implement the strategy. At the moment, Botswana only has one radiation facility at Gaborone Private Hospital.

The World Health Organisation predicts that morbidity and mortality due to cervical cancer will increase by more than 20 percent by 2025 in women under the age of 65 years in Botswana if current trends persist.


Read this week's paper