Last year, Malawi registered 4 163 new cases of cervical cancer among women and 2 879 died from the same, Minister of Health (MOH) Atupele Muluzi told our sister paper The Nation.
He was speaking during the launch of the cervical cancer vaccine at St Charles Lwanga Primary School ground in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mponda in Mangochi.
He indicated that cervical cancer remains a leading cause of deaths among women aged between 15 and 49.
The vaccine targets girls aged 9 to 14 to protect them from the disease.
Executive director for Women’s Coalition Against Cancer (Wocaca), Maud Mwakasungula, in an interview said nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Early sexual contact at a young age and multiple sexual partners, she says increase the risk of cervical cancer because they lead to exposure to HPV.
Warning the younger generation to abstain from early sexual activity, Mwakasungula stresses the importance of women to go for cervical cancer screening and treatment.
Hailing the intervention, she indicates that HPV vaccine exercise is one preventive measure reducing the burden of cervical cancer in women and other measures are screening and treatment of pre – cancerous lesions.
“As they grow to be adults, girls form the backbone of society. Protecting them early reduces the number of women affected and dying from cervical cancer which Maud impacts negatively on national development,” she said.
Mwakasungula says whenever such good initiatives are introduced; it is conceivable to note fears.
However, key to tackling this has been a sensitisation strategy involving different stakeholders such as communities, traditional and religious leaders, special interest’s groups and teachers.
Wocaca’s involvement is coordinating civil society involvement in the HPV vaccine exercise, helping mobilise and sensitise communities and monitoring the.
Spokesperson for the ministry of health Joshua Malango observes that reducing the number of girls and women affected also reduces the number of admissions and frequent visits to the hospital for treatment, operations and care.
He adds that a reduction in financial expenditures on chemotherapy and surgical operations, which in turn will lessen the burden on medical health and the nation, is another advantage.
He says MOH carried out advocacy and social mobilisation from national to community level to dispel myths and misconceptions.
Malanog says there is no estimated figure of nine to18-year olds on yearly cancer infection so far. The numbers of those affected are few.
He cited a case of a 15-year-old with cervical cancer, saying there was need to consider that one can get infected at an early age and manifest to cancer at a later in life.
On the vaccination procedure, he says one has to get two doses at six months interval to be fully vaccinated, and advises the girls to comply to be fully protected. n