Keeping Families Whole with Cervical Cancer Prevention

“When I was growing up, lots of women and men—including myself—had no idea that cervical cancer was a silent killer. … That is why the screening program is very, very important for us.”

– Musonda Ngolwe, Counselor, PCI/Zambia

Keeping Families Whole with Cervical Cancer Prevention

“When I was growing up, lots of women and men—including myself—had no idea that cervical cancer was a silent killer. … That is why the screening program is very, very important for us.”

– Musonda Ngolwe, Counselor, PCI/Zambia

Overview

Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable, yet in 2018 an overwhelming 311,000 women died from this disease. Sadly, more than 90 percent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 100,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and over 68 percent of them will not survive. Comparatively, in developed nations, 95 percent of women survive stage one cervical cancer.

While the disease is curable at a low cost, women living in impoverished communities with inadequate health care systems cannot access essential prevention, screening, or treatment for cervical cancer.

Working TogetHER to End Cervical Cancer

At the World Health Assembly in 2018, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for global elimination of cervical cancer. In response, PCI joined the global movement to end cervical cancer and support the delivery of women’s health interventions around the globe.

PCI is a proud member of the TogetHER for Health network, a global partnership focused on cervical cancer prevention, along with other organizations like Population Services International, Jhpiego, PATH, FHI 360, and the American Cancer Society. This partnership is identifying key issues and leveraging global connections to implement and scale programs in high-risk areas while fostering the development of innovative cervical cancer prevention interventions and programs.

The TogetHER initiative advocates for funding and action or cervical cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention programs, including:

  • Increased access to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (the virus that causes cervical cancer) for young women
  • Building global awareness regarding the importance of early cervical cancer screening
  • Integration of cervical cancer screenings into women’s health programs, including family planning or HIV care and treatment programs
  • Treating precancerous lesions and referring women with more advanced lesions to specialized care

Working with TogetHER and other partners, PCI is raising cervical cancer awareness and advocating for the resources required to effectively fight this disease along with increased political commitment.

Combating Cervical Cancer in Zambia

Zambia has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world, along with the fourth-highest rate of cervical cancer. As a PEPFAR Zambia partner, PCI works with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Zambian Defense Force Medical Services to provide cervical cancer screening and treatment services to women living with HIV.

Because women living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to cervical cancer due to a compromised immune system, PCI has prioritized the integration of cervical cancer “screen-and-treat” services into routine HIV treatment in Zambia.

Building on the earlier success of its Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon program, PCI added static clinics to its innovative mobile cervical cancer-HIV clinic intervention. PCI offers cervical cancer screening through visual inspection and treatment of precancerous cervical lesions at communities in and around Zambian Defense Force bases throughout the country.

Together, the static and mobile clinics have helped PCI reach approximately 25,000 women with life-saving cervical cancer screening and pre-invasive lesions treatment. Of these women, 93% either received immediate cryotherapy, thermal ablation treatment or were successfully referred to facilities for LEEP services and histopathology evaluations.

In June 2018, PCI with local partner BlueCode, launched a national electronic cervical cancer information management system—SmartCerv—to enable standardized national reporting and management of cervical cancer data.

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PCI In Action

Connecting Communities to Life-Saving Vaccines

San Diego is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the United States, with more than 100 languages spoken by residents who have come from all over the world. With more than 1.3 million people, San Diego is the 8th largest city in the U.S. and the 2nd largest in California. In this community, PCI is raising HPV awareness, education, and increasing vaccine uptake in the City Heights neighborhood through the Immunotherapy Foundation-Human Papillomavirus project.

City Heights is a particularly diverse neighborhood, where almost half of the population is foreign-born. The majority of residents are low income and of Hispanic, Vietnamese, or East African descent, and face barriers to accessing health services, including cervical cancer services. Through the project, Community Health Workers are trained on topics related to HPV signs, symptoms, risk factors, myth-busting, and resources in a linguistically and culturally sensitive manner.

Health workers use the clinical and community Referral Pathway Tool to connect community members who need the HPV vaccine or a cervical cancer screening with partner agencies in City Heights and surrounding areas.

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