Mable Mambo (not real name), 36, from Mpinga Village in Balaka bled every time she and her husband exercised their conjugal rights.
Typical of African beliefs, she suspected that she had been bewitched.
“I was also having pains in the back, the leg and abdomen apart from having menstrual discharge erratically. However, because of little or no knowledge, the idea of being bewitched took centre stage,” Mambo said.
As a teacher, her experiences meant being absent from school most of the time, a development that negatively affected the performance of her pupils.
However, when Mambo visited the hospital one day, she was advised to go for cervical cancer screening where she was diagnosed with the disease.
“I did not know whether to believe what I was experiencing was cervical cancer because everybody home said I was on my way to the morgue through black magic. Fortunately for me, it was still in the early stages and I got help from the hospital,” she said.
Mambo said despite the increase in cervical cancer screening sites in the country, the disease still poses a danger to most girls and women.
She attributed this to lack of knowledge, especially in rural areas where women still succumb to a disease which is both preventable and curable if detected early.
Speaking recently at Mponda Primary School during the launch of cervical cancer screening campaign, Community of Saint Egidio’s Disease Relief Excellent Advanced Means (Dream.2) project coordinator Emmie Mbewe said the increase in the number of sites where women and girls could be screened will not bear fruits if no effort to encourage them to go for cervical cancer screening is initiated.
“Dream Saint Egidio, with funding from Norwegian Church Aid, is conducting cervical cancer awareness and screening campaign with the aim of sensitising people in the education sector and community on cervical cancer prevention.
“We want our girls to grow up with the knowledge about cervical cancer so that in future they should ably prevent the disease.
“Secondly, we want these girls and teachers to take the message to their communities and work as advocates to their parents,” she said.
Mbewe said non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension are the most dangerous these days compared to HIV and Aids which is manageable. She, therefore, called upon women aged 15-49 to routinely go for screening.
Balaka District Hospital medical officer NthamoseSimango said providing cervical cancer knowledge in girls ensures it [knowledge] is nurtured through the passage of time and promote its awareness to relations.
“Early detection ensures cervical cancer is treatable unlike late detection where treatment is almost ineffective. The problem has been that the disease was shrouded in misconceptions which discouraged many girls and women from going for screening,” she said.
Simango said out of the women that went for screening last year in Balaka, 52 percent had positive lesions while 38 percent had advanced cervical cancer.
She added that 27 percent of all women in Malawi living with HIV and Aids have cervical cancer showing that the disease is widespread.
Balaka District Education Office coordinating primary education adviser McPeterLumbani said the campaign run by Dream complemented what government through the Ministry of Health is already doing in raising awareness and screening of the disease amongst school girls and female teachers.
“Initially, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology runs what is known as human papilloma virus [HPV] vaccine sensitisation campaign in primary schools to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer,” he said.
During the exercise, 15 secondary schools and colleges in Balaka were targeted with awareness messages and screening activities where teachers, spouses of male teachers and women from communities were also screened.