“The most destructive, painful, most contagious disease of all is ignorance,” Noah Weinberg, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi said, and I 100 percent agree with him.
Ignorance is the one thing that will kill many people in Uganda and Africa at large because of lack of knowledge and education.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, with over 90% of cases occurring in developing countries. In Uganda, it is the most frequent cancer among women and every year over 200,000 women die of cervical cancer in Africa.
Why is it that many women are being killed by cervical cancer? This is because, they do not know about it, its causes and how to prevent it.
“Ignorance perverts people and leads to wasted, counterproductive lives. Ignorance causes untold suffering — mistreatment of children, marital strife and suffering in a dead-end job,” Weinberg puts it well in his words.
Last week there was free testing and screening for all cancers at Nsambya Hospital organized by the Lights for Cancer campaign.
This campaign which run for a week aimed at creating awareness on the prevention, early detection and treatment of breast cancer and cervical cancer.
Dr Francesco Aloi, Country Representative of AISPO (Italian Association for Solidarity among People) an organization behind Lights for Cancer campaign said they is need for the government and health leaders to encourage women to adopt the culture of going for regular screening and checkups to beat the cancer.
“The easiest way to beat this cancer is early detection,” he said.
However, in Uganda the culture of going for checkups is not yet adopted. Many people wait to first get sick and be admitted in the hospital to realize that they need to go check up. As for others, they wait for that moment when they are about to die and are even forced to go for a check.
With this attitude, hundreds will die.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical Cancer is a cancer that starts in the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens at the top of the vagina. There are two types of cells on the surface of the cervix, squamous and columnar. Most cervical cancers are from squamous cells.
Cervical cancer usually develops slowly. It starts as a precancerous condition called dysplasia. This condition can be detected by a Pap smear and is 100% treatable. It can take years for these changes to turn into cervical cancer. Most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today have not had regular Pap smears or they have not followed up on abnormal Pap smear results.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse. There are many different types (also called strains) of HPV. Some strains lead to cervical cancer. Other strains can cause genital warts. Yet others do not cause any problems at all.
A woman’s sexual habits and patterns can increase her risk of developing cervical cancer. Risky sexual practices include; having sex at an early age, having multiple sexual partners and having a partner or many partners who are active in high-risk sexual activities.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. Some of the symptoms that may occur include; abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause, vaginal discharge that does not stop, and may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling and periods that become heavier and last longer than usual.
Cervical cancer may spread to the bladder, intestines, lungs, and liver. Often there are no problems until the cancer is advanced and has spread. Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include:
- Back pain
- Bone pain or fractures
- Leaking of urine or feces from the vagina
- Leg pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pelvic pain
- Single swollen leg
- Weight loss
It is the role of the government (Ministry of Health) and health leaders to sensitize the society and invite them to perform screening for these cancers. Just like the way in the western countries, screening is usually done every after a certain period of time according to the policy of the country, it is time for Uganda to follow suit.