Saturday, October 16, 2021

Leading the fight against cervical cancer

Botswana has a high burden of cervical cancer due to a limited screening program and high HIV prevalence. About 60% of the cervical cancer patients are HIV positive.This is according to a 2015 study published in PubMed Central (PMC). 

The report says through initiatives by the Botswana Ministry of Health and various strategic partnerships, strides have been made in treatment of pre-invasive and invasive cancer. “The See and Treat program for cervical cancer is expanding throughout the country. Starting in 2015, school-going girls will be vaccinated against HPV. In regards to treatment of invasive cancer, a multidisciplinary clinic has been initiated at the main oncology hospital to streamline care.” However, the report says, challenges remain such as delays in treatment, lack of trained human personnel, limited follow-up care, and little patient education. “Despite improvements in the care of pre-invasive and invasive cervical cancer patients, for declines in cervical cancer-related morbidity and mortality to be achieved, Botswana needs to continue to invest in decreasing the burden of disease and improving patient outcomes of patients with cervical cancer.” There are some Batswana who have also taken it upon themselves to assist in the fight against cancer. 

Professor DitsapeloMcFarland prides herself as ‘a pioneer of cervical cancer research in Botswana’. She has published several papers on cervical screening among women in Botswana which started with her doctoral dissertation at the Boston College School of Nursing, Massachusetts. She has also made presentations at several conferences nationally and internationally. She has extended her research to include cervical cancer screening in other Sub-Saharan countries. McFarlane recently presented her research entitled: Integrative Review of Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening in Sub-Saharan Africa; at the invitation of the BIT’s 10th Annual World Cancer Congress-2017 in Barcelona, Spain earlier this year. McFarland is also a member of the prestigious American Nurses Association (ANA).  

Born and raised in Tonota, McFarlane received her Bachelor of Education in Nursing from the University of Botswana in 1982. She then moved to the United States following her marriage to Professor Earl L. McFarland Jr. of Williams College. Massachusetts, USA. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, in 1986, and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from Boston College, Massachusetts in 1999, specializing in nursing science. She has held positions of assistant professor at the University of Botswana and at the Boston College School of Nursing, a Jesuit institution in Massachusetts. She is an Associate Professor of Nursing at the Adelphi University, Garden City (New York) and recently received a tenured appointment. She is also an active member of the Sigma ThetaTau international Honor Society for Nurses and has recently held position of Recording Secretary of The Alpha Omega Chapter, New York. 
McFarland worked as a staff nurse before rising to the level of Chief Diagnostic Officer at the Ministry of Health in Botswana, and to that of a professor in an American University. She continues to develop her research in cervical cancer further, both nationally and internationally.

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