I’m happy to report that on 1 August, 2013, St. Albert’s Mission Hospital officially began its Cervical-Cancer Prevention Program. During the month of August, the hospital clinic screened 216 women for the presence of pre-cancerous cells that would likely lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
Six of the 216 women screened (2.7%) had pre-cancerous cells; four women (1.8%) had changes that indicated cervical cancer. The women with pre-cancerous cells were treated at St. Albert’s; the altered cervical cells were killed and removed using cryotherapy, an effective, relatively low-technology method to remove the pre-cancerous cells. Removing the cells prevents the disease.
For women with changes that indicate probable cervical cancer, a small sample of their altered tissue was sent to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare for tests to confirm that the changes are cancerous. Women with cervical cancer must be referred to Parirenyatwa Hospital for treatment.
The St. Albert’s VIAC program is largely an outcome of a visit this past March to St. Albert’s and Muvonde Mission Hospitals by Dr. Lowell Schnipper and BHA. Dr. Schnipper, who is chief of Hematology/Oncology and Clinical Director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cancer Center, and the Theodore and Evelyn Berenson Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is collaborating on the project with Better Healthcare for Africa and with St. Albert’s hospital.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in Zimbabwe. The goals of the St. Albert’s prevention program are to:
- Reduce the suffering and the number of deaths from cervical cancer;
- Collect data on cervical-cancer incidence to document the magnitude of the problem;
- Serve as a model for cervical-cancer prevention initiatives at other rural hospitals in Zimbabwe;
- Create an infrastructure for the introduction of an HPV-vaccination program and for the introduction of more accurate and effective screening tests when they become affordable.
BHA and Dr. Schnipper are seeking additional funding for the three-year, three-component Cervical-Cancer Prevention Project at St. Albert’s hospital. The three components are:
- A screening and treatment clinic at St. Albert’s hospital;
- A cervical-cancer community awareness project to promote screening and to reduce the stigma of cervical cancer;
- Provide weekly cervical screening at three remote community health centers.
These efforts will be initiated as funding permits. Please help support these efforts by donating here.
Other partners in the St. Albert’s Mission Hospital Cervical-Cancer Prevention Project are:
- Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW)
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
- The Sarita Kenedy East Foundation
- Brother’s Brother Foundation