A collaborative effort between local KwaZulu-Natal based healthcare organisations recently saw the successful completion of a free pap smear drive to raise awareness about cervical cancer and to assist in early detection of the illness.
According to Wendy Beato, hospital manager designate at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in South Africa, with close on 11 000 positive diagnoses being made every year.
“Cervical cancer sadly has the highest cancer death rate in women in South Africa, yet it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer and can be successfully treated if it is identified in the early stages,” she says.
|Pic: From left to right: Dr Kamendran Govender, a gynaecologist oncologist who practises at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital; Wendy Beato, hospital general manager designate; Lorraine Govender, CANSA national manager health promotions; Nonku Nene, CANSA co-ordinator; Reshma Singh, personal assistant to the Netcare uMhlanga Hospital general manager; and Dr Shaun Timmal, a gynaecologist who practises at the hospital.
|Pic: Clinical facilitators at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, Zakkiyya Ally, left, and Shareen Hiralall, right, assisting participants with filling out forms at the pap smear drive, which took place at the facility as a collaborative effort between local KZN based healthcare organisations to help raise awareness about cervical cancer.
It was with this in mind that Netcare uMhlanga Hospital took part in a collaboration with several resident gynaecologists, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Ampath, Lancet Laboratories and Pathcare Laboratories to do 250 free pap smears during Women’s Month on a first come first served basis. The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive with the drive being booked up within days of its announcement.
Dr Kamendran Govender, a gynaecologist oncologist who practises at the Aurora Gynaecology suites at Netcare uMhlanga hospital, notes that the way in which a community deals with cervical cancer is an indicator of the quality of a community’s healthcare system.
“Cancer of the cervix is not simply about healthcare – it is also about the empowerment of women. It is encouraging to see the emphasis that has been placed on women’s health with this initiative from Netcare and its partners,” he says.
|Pic: From left to right: Ward administrators, Patricia Mandrie and Nicole Chetty; stock controller, Mala Marimuthu; and ward administrator, Tina Sewpaul from Netcare uMhlanga Hospital assisted with the drive.
“It is advisable for all women who are or who have been sexually active to have regular pap smears. In this quick and painless procedure, we take cells from the cervix for examination to detect abnormalities that could indicate cancer or the risk of cancer.
“We also advocate that all girls and young women who are not yet sexually active get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, as this is the best line of defence in preventing cervical cancer, the leading cause of which is HPV,” says Dr Govender.
CANSA’s national manager of health promotion, Lorraine Govender, added that women should not stay away from the doctor’s rooms when they receive abnormal results, pointing out that the gap between screening and treatment is very high in South Africa. Just 50% of women who are identified with precancerous signs go on to have further follow ups.
“The ultimate aim of this pap smear drive was to spread the message that if detected early on and treated as soon as possible, the chances of beating cervical cancer are extremely good. We at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital were pleased to have played a part in this drive, which we hope will have a positive impact in the communities that we serve.
“Thank you to the doctors for giving freely of their time to conduct the pap smears and to our three pathology partners for sponsoring the pathology tests. We also wish to thank the sponsors of the prizes for the lucky draw that took place on the day, including Hirsch’s, Servest Security, Ampath and Lancet Laboratories. We greatly appreciate your generosity,” concluded Beato.
Notes to editor
Three facts every woman should know about cervical cancer
- There are warning signs and symptoms but not in the early stages of the disease. Women should look out for abnormal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, abnormal menstrual cycles, pain or bleeding after sex, and back pain.
- Only certain strains of HPV cause cervical cancer. Approximately 100 types of HPV have been identified to date and, of these, nearly 15 virus types are considered to cause cervical cancer. The highest risk HPV types, namely 16 and 18, are responsible for over 70 percent of cervical cancers globally.
- Smoking and certain other factors increase your risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Smokers are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Because smoking weakens your immune system, it makes it more difficult for your body to fight HPV infection. Women with a sister or mother who had cervical cancer are two to three times more likely to develop the disease. Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of cervical cancer. It is also important to disclose your HIV status as this too increases your risk of developing cervical cancer should you be HIV positive.
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