22 November 2017

Tanzania: State Eyes Universal Cervical Cancer Screening

Photo: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance
(File photo).

EACH public health centre will be providing initial cervical cancer treatment by December next year in efforts to fight the deadly malady, the government declared yesterday.

Plans are also at an advanced stage to embark on vaccination of girl children aged between nine and 13 years against the disease from next April.

Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Minister Ummy Mwalimu has called on parents not to hesitate taking their children for the vaccination.

"We hope that by vaccinating them at this age, we will reduce the cervical cancer cases...and, I will demonstrate this by bringing my own daughter for vaccination," she said.

She was speaking at the receipt of materials for cervical cancer prevention and supplies as support from JHPIEGO International organisation in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Maternal Child Survival Programme (MCSP) to improve the cervical cancer services in Tanzania.

"My aim is to have each public health centre providing initial treatment of the cervical cancer by December 2018," Ms Mwalimu said, hinting that the target is to screen three million women.

Currently, there are 524 government's health centres, with only 265 of them offering the services. Health centres are at level two, after dispensaries, in public health facilities grading.

"It's not good that a woman goes to the health centre for maternal and child health but fails to access the cervical cancer screening services and initial treatment," she said.

Speaking over the achievement so far, the minister explained that the government has scaled up screening and initial treatment services, saying: "In the past one year, over 100 new centres were established for screening and provision of initial therapy."

In every 100 patients reporting at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), 34 of them suffer from cervical cancer and 12 have breast cancer, according to available statistics.

"So, when you take the two types of cancer you will see that they account for about 50 per cent of all cancer cases, this is why I have decided to focus on them to reduce the deaths," she said.

About 80 per cent of patients report at ORCI, with the disease at advanced stage, leading to poor treatment results and most of them dying.

Jhpiego Tanzania Country Director Jeremie Zoungrana said: "So, far we have a low number of cervical cancer screening clinics, so there is need to scale up the screening services and improve the accessibility."

There is also a need to maintain the quality of screening services, including data quality, he added. USAID noted that cancer poses a major health threat worldwide and the rates of incidents have increased in most countries since 1980's.

Evidence shows that cervical cancer remains a leading cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality among women, with almost 50 per cent of cervical cancer victims dying, worldwide.


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