Cervical Cancer accounts for more than 40 percent of all women suffering from cancer in the world and about two-thirds of cancer deaths. In Liberia, it is the most common cancer affecting women aged 15 – 44, says Joyce Killikpo, Executive Director of Public Health Initiative of Liberia, PHIL – a local non-for-profit organization working to curb the medical condition that remains a serious menace for women across the world.
Ms. Killikpo was quoting data from www.hpvcentre.net.during the launch of a project aimed at promoting “access to equitable and efficient screening and treatment services across the country”.
She stressed that “screening is crucial to early diagnosis and prevention of cervical cancer”, while adding that PHIL is advocating for the “political will and commitment in the fight against cervical cancer” in the country.
“Many women with cervical cancer don’t realize they have the disease early on, because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms until the late stages. When symptoms do appear, they’re easily mistaken for common conditions like menstrual periods and urinary tract infections,” she said.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix of a female, which is at the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.
The virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cervical cells to become cancer cells. Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms but there are several symptoms that become acute when it advances, medical experts say.
Considering the pervasiveness of Cervical Cancer in the country, Ms. Kilikpo said her NGO is working in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to promote and enhance the quality of health care delivery in Liberia.
She disclosed that PHIL has also embarked on a “cost-effective” cervical cancer screening program by using the “See and Treat approach” which is gear towards preventing cervical cancer among women in the country.
Ms. Kilikpo, who narrated how she worked assiduously along with her team to source support for the purchase of equipment to do enhance screening of patients, expressed confidence in ensuring that all Liberian women have “access to timely Cervical Cancer prevention, early detection and treatment services.”
“So we got a device [that is] call Corpus scope – it’s a device that looks like a phone that we are going to use – we have specialist out there that we will be sharing our data with and we also have a device here called the C3 mobile coagulation – it’s the one that we are going to use to treat the pre-canceral legions,” she explained, while adding that the cost of the medical equipment, which were imported from Germany and Israel, cost US$10,000.
She also disclosed that there several other health centers including private facilities that are conducting Cervical Cancel tests, but her institution’s primary concern is focused on woman who are in rural Liberia and cannot afford but need to be screened and treated.
“What’s happening to that woman in Gbokonjayleh (Maryland County), what happens to the woman in Totota (Bong County)? How does she have access to screening and treatment opportunities?”
She then reemphasized the significance of the Ministry of Health exercising the “political will” to ensure that testing and screening of Cervical Cancer is prioritized across the country.