By Irene Mirembe
RECENTLY, cancer has been recognised as an epidemic, world over. This is not glad tidings; it is a call to action for us to prioritise cancer screening and treatment interventions.
According to World Health Organisation, cancers figure among the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012 and it is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 within the next two decades.
Whereas the media has done a lot to create awareness and ‘noise’ about this epidemic, especially cervical cancer, leading to development partners, the Government and private sector partners to respond more needs to be done.
Most women who die from cervical cancer live in developing countries like Uganda. But women don’t have to die of cervical cancer. The disease develops slowly after initial infection with the human papillomavirus and, unlike most other cancers, it is preventable when precursor lesions are detected and treated.
In Uganda, many millions of people are never screened for cervical cancer—whether it is because of the day-long journey to the nearest clinic, local myths and fears about cervical screening, or poor health services. Screening is essential because women often do not experience symptoms
According to ministry of health, cervical cancer is one of the two most common causes of cancer-related deaths in Uganda where 3,577 women are diagnosed every year and about 2,464 die from a disease which is both preventable and curable once detected early.
The ministry developed and launched a strategic plan for cervical cancer prevention and it includes elements of HPV vaccination, testing and treatment.
The Ministry of Health in partnership with local private health partners with the support of the donors and the Government launched a major, nationwide initiative to provide the women of Uganda with affordable access to cervical cancer screening and treatment in country.
This has resulted into many women especially those from rural areas access these much life saving cervical cancer screening and preventative therapy partnership services in a number of private or ProFam clinics across the country.
Many private health facility providers across the country have been trained in cervical cancer screening and early prevention therapy and awareness created on availability of these services
With continued support, the Government through donor funding and the private sector partners will sustain provision of services to hundreds of thousands of women in Uganda every year.
Evidence shows that using the private sector model has leveraged private health facilities to provide the much needed health services through existing public and private infrastructure in some of the most underserved regions and communities of Uganda.
This has benefited women to be reached with an integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services and delivery channels including cervical cancer screening and treatment.
The private sector is the future for effective implementation of interventions that target to address the nation’s health challenges among which are cancer. It provides affordable and accessible health services which has enabled majority of women, especially in rural areas stay healthy resulting in happy families and communities.
This will in long term push Uganda to achieve even better economic vision.
Writer works with PACE as a Behavioural Change Coordinator