The Ministry of Health (MoH) has officially declared January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to raise awareness about the disease and promote preventive measures. Cervical cancer has been a prominent cause of concern, claiming the lives of countless women across the country.
On Thursday, January 11, 2024, the MoH used its social media account X to announce the designation of January as the cervical cancer awareness month. The ministry expressed its commitment to share vital information and educational materials with the public throughout the month. By disseminating knowledge and creating awareness, the MoH aims to empower women with important information about cervical cancer prevention and early detection.
As part of the awareness campaign, the MoH emphasized the importance of regular cervical cancer screenings for women aged 30 years and above. They urged women to visit the nearest health facility at least twice a year to undergo the screening procedure. Detecting cervical cancer at an early stage significantly increases the chances of successful treatment.
Furthermore, young girls aged 10 to 14 years have been advised to receive vaccinations against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is a leading cause of cervical cancer. The vaccine is administered in two doses, six months apart. Completing the full vaccination schedule provides long-term protection against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer remains the primary cause of cancer-related deaths among women in Uganda. With the high prevalence of genital HPV infection, the lack of accessible radiotherapy, and the absence of a national cervical cancer prevention and control program, the number of deaths from this disease is expected to rise.
To address this pressing issue, efforts are underway to establish an effective cervical cancer screening and treatment program. However, achieving this goal necessitates adequate financial resources, infrastructure development, the training of healthcare professionals, and the establishment of surveillance mechanisms for targeted women. Implementing visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and HPV DNA testing, along with the processing of self-collected samples at specific sites, could enable a national, large-scale population-based screening program in Uganda. Combining screening efforts with timely treatment for HPV infections can help prevent the progression of cervical cancer and bridge the current prevention gap.
Significant advancements are being made in improving cervical cancer care across the country. This includes ongoing construction of new radiotherapy bunkers, training of healthcare professionals, and the establishment of regional centers. The Uganda Cancer Institute Bill, which establishes the Institute as a semi-autonomous agency responsible for coordinating cancer prevention and treatment, is poised to bring about a transformative change in cervical cancer control. However, realizing these improvements requires both political will and increased domestic and international investments.
Uganda has a population of 13.1 million women aged 15 years and older, all of whom are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Current estimates indicate that approximately 6,959 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, with 4,607 losing their lives to this disease.
Recognizing the symptoms of cervical cancer is crucial for early detection. Women should be vigilant about irregular or postmenopausal bleeding, experience pain during intercourse, notice increased vaginal discharge, and observe vaginal bleeding after sexual activity. Being aware of these symptoms and seeking medical attention promptly can contribute to timely diagnosis and potentially lifesaving interventions.
By designating January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Ministry of Health endeavors to equip Ugandan women with the knowledge and resources necessary to combat this deadly disease. Through educational campaigns, screening initiatives, and vaccination programs, the MoH aims to reduce the burden of cervical cancer and improve the overall well-being of women in Uganda.