12 April 2018

Ethiopia: Treating Cervical Cancer Beforehand

Seble Tamrat (in this article her name is changed for the sake of her privacy), 17, was a 10th grade student in one of Addis Ababa's high Schools. She was one of the outstanding students in the school.

One day, while she put off her clothes to go to her bed, she observed drops of blood on her underwear. Unfortunately, this did not bother her as she considered it to be irregularity in her menstruation. Thus, she ignored it casually without going to health institutions and consulting a physician.

Later on, the symptom of the diseases worsened and distended bulged marks started to be seen on her face. One day, her uncle, he is also a physician, came to her family's home, and was shocked to see such lumps on her face. From his experience, he suspected that the bulges to be signs of cancer. He did not spend a minute; he asked her family to take her to hospital immediately. "Are the bulges the sign of cancer?" her family asked him worriedly.

He could not simply tell them his feeling. "No." He lied deliberately. He did not want to worry them. When the discussion was being carried out between them, Seble did not bothered about it. Rather; she was worrying about her 10th grade examination.

After they thought of the case seriously, her family took her to hospital. The medical doctor, after performing the necessary examination and decided to give her radiation therapy, he requested them to sign in order to take the responsibility for any possible risk. Her elder brother took all the responsibilities. Surprisingly, she got relief from her pain as she started the radiotherapy treatment.

Then after expressing her gratitude to the doctor and feeling a sense of pleasure for the treatment, she checked out from the hospital. Sadly, some weeks after she checked out from the hospital, her disease relapsed. This time was the hardest time for her and her family. She failed to control herself and her family became desperate. After three months of serious pain, she passed away.

The number of non communicable disease is now increasing at an alarming rate. Of which cancer is a number one killer disease.

Following breast cancer, almost 15 percent of patients are affected by cervical cancer. Recognizing that the disease has reached to climax, the Ministry of Health has been striving to prevent the disease beforehand.

By its nature, cervical cancer can easily be treated if the patient goes to health facility as the first pre-cancer symptom is seen.

For this to happen, the Ministry has been dedicating to raise communities' awareness. If the society has access to the service, it is possible to minimize the burden within a short period of time.

In this regard, the government has been introducing various technologies to treat the disease in advance- one is Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP).

Ministry Cervical Cancer Focal Person Takelech Moges said that the Ministry has been working in cervical cancer by identifying various ways of prevention mechanisms. The prevention methods are classified as primary, secondary and tertiary. In primary, efforts have been exerted to raise awareness of the community towards disease's symptom and utilization of vaccination.

The secondary method of treatment is, focusing on visual inspect with ascetic acid, diagnose the disease within a given health facility after conducting pre-cancer test.

At this juncture, Tagelech said other than providing cancer screening test and medication in 118 health facilities, the government has been actively engaging in cervical cancer awareness raising and immunization service provision.

"Though the service is accessible, the society has not yet been familiarized with it," she said, adding that the Ministry has set plan to train health extension workers in a bid to raise awareness of the public concerning cervical cancer and its symptoms.

Indicating that Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have been on the rise worldwide, Tagelech indicated that around 40 percent of fellow citizens die due to NCDs every year.

As LEEP service is being given in five major hospitals, the Ministry is working to expand such service to 25 hospitals, she added.

However, the public do not come to health institution for checkup. The situation is even worse when one goes to remote areas. Though the service is available there, people who are getting the service are few in number.

"We are now developing the way out and identify various strategies. First, we are trying to raise awareness of health extension workers; we are including all this in their working manual: how people can prevent Non-Transmitted Diseases like cervical and other types of cancers."

The secondary method is treating the disease. If there is pre-cancer symptom, any trained physical can easily treat the disease. But if it is left untreated, the sickness would get worsen and could be changed to cancer.

If any woman takes pre-cancer testing and if there is a symptom, the necessary medical treatment, known as 'cryo-therapy' would be given to her immediately. If there is pre cancer symptom at tip of the vagina, the medical instrument would abolish the cell that is going to be changed to cancer. This would be done by putting ice packs on the area where there is an indication of the disease.

In any health facility, the medium professional can apply it, if he/she takes the training on cervical cancer treatment. To make the service better, the Ministry has purchased all the necessary medical equipments to 118 health facilities. In addition to this, the service is provided in 50 private hospitals. As a nation 170 health facilities have been given such a service.

Netsanet Shiferaw, Path Finder International Cervical Cancer Project Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, said that LEEP means Loop Electro- Surgical Incision Procedure. It can cure women with cervical cancer symptom. It can be cure by crio-theraphy and other criteria.

LEEP service in Ethiopia has begun since Pathfinder has first introduced the service.

Pathfinder Ethiopia Country Representative Dr. Mengistu Asnake said that to reach more women with accessible, minimal invasive treatment options, Pathfinder expanded treatment service in Ethiopia by introducing the LEEP which is an outpatient procedure that can be performed locally.

Through the project, Pathfinder would strengthen national capacity to support comprehensive facility based services; promote community awareness of cervical cancer prevention and establish strategic alliance and partnership to expand service use, he added.

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