Zimbabwe Launches Free Cervical Cancer Screening Drive

Zimbabwe's Health Professions Authority offers free cervical cancer screening and treatment to women in a month-long campaign

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe’s Health Professions Authority (HPA) has announced a month-long campaign to offer free cervical cancer screening and treatment to women across the country. The initiative, which started on Wednesday, aims to raise awareness about the preventable and curable disease that affects thousands of Zimbabwean women every year.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Zimbabwe, after breast cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 2,200 women die from cervical cancer annually in the country, and many more suffer from its complications.

The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can also cause genital warts. HPV can be prevented by vaccination, but the vaccine is not widely available or affordable in Zimbabwe. Therefore, screening and early treatment are crucial to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.


How the screening works

The HPA, in partnership with the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) and other organizations, is conducting the screening and treatment exercise at its clinic in Belgravia, Harare. Women aged 18 to 56 who have ever been sexually active are eligible for the service.

The screening involves a simple and painless procedure called visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), which uses vinegar to detect abnormal cells on the cervix. If they find any precancerous lesions, they can promptly treat them using cryotherapy, which employs freezing gas to eliminate the abnormal cells.

The whole process takes about 15 minutes and does not require any laboratory tests or follow-up visits. There is also provision for women undergoing screening with information and counseling regarding cervical cancer prevention and family planning.


Why it matters

Persistance Maunga, the HPA’s public relations officer, emphasized that the campaign aims to raise awareness about the curability of cervical cancer when detected early.  She encouraged women to seize this opportunity and undergo screening promptly.

“Cancer is just like HIV, but because people fear being operated on, they don’t come for screening. But cancer can be cured. Early detection is the best way we can treat cancer,” she said.

She also said the HPA was planning to extend the service to other provinces and districts in the future, depending on the availability of resources and partners.

Sharon Dhondo, one of the women who benefited from the screening, shared that her friend, who had lost a neighbor to cervical cancer, encouraged her to attend.

Sharon emphasized that fellow women should seize this opportunity because early detection allows for effective treatment. Unfortunately, some women lost their lives due to fear of surgery. For instance, her neighbor fell ill, and although doctors detected cancer, she declined surgery to remove her womb. Tragically, Sharon’s friend has since passed away.

The HPA’s cervical cancer screening and treatment campaign is part of a broader effort to improve the health and well-being of women in Zimbabwe, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted many health services and increased the vulnerability of women.

Additionally, the campaign aligns with World Cancer Day, observed annually on February 4, aiming to raise awareness and galvanize action against the global cancer crisis.

By offering free and accessible screening and treatment, the HPA hopes to save lives and empower women to take charge of their health. The campaign also aims to inspire other stakeholders and policymakers to invest more in cervical cancer prevention and control, as well as other health issues affecting women.

As the slogan of the World Cancer Day says, “Together, all our actions matter.” By working together, Zimbabwe can achieve a healthier and brighter future for its women and girls.

Source: The Herald 


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