Cervical cancer is a significant health problem in Uganda, responsible for up to 40% of all cancers reported in the country, and is a leading cause of mortality for women.
According to the World Health Organization, Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. In 2018, an estimated 570 000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide and about 311 000 women died from the disease.
Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the uterus from the vagina).
Almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV), an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact.
Despite being a preventable and curable disease, cervical cancer patients face a number of challenges especially those in resource-limited settings, including limited trained healthcare professionals and equipment, which makes it difficult for women to access timely and effective treatment.
Additionally, cultural barriers and stigmatization have prevented women from seeking care, which can delay diagnosis and treatment.
There is a need for continued investment in cervical cancer prevention and control programs in Uganda, including increased funding for screening and treatment services, education and awareness campaigns, and training for healthcare professionals.
The Uganda Cancer Institute has been at the forefront of these efforts, offering a range of services, including cervical cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as training for healthcare professionals.
The Ministry of Health in Uganda (MOH) has also launched several initiatives to improve access to cervical cancer treatment. In regard to fighting cervical cancer, MOH in 2010 launched a Strategic Plan for Cervical Cancer prevention and control whose overall goal was to establish a framework for a comprehensive cervical cancer prevention and control program in Uganda.
However, more needs to be done to address the burden of cervical cancer in limited-resource communities.
Efforts by non-governmental organizations and international organizations to improve access to cervical cancer screening and treatment, through initiatives such as mobile health clinics and telemedicine programs, are commendable.
But continued investment in healthcare infrastructure, education, awareness campaigns, and training for healthcare professionals is crucial to improving access to cervical cancer screening and treatment in these communities.
Reflecting on the recently launched Regional Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean, it is time for Uganda to prioritize funding and resources to address cervical cancer.
By working together to address the burden of cervical cancer, it is possible to save the lives of countless women in Uganda and improve health outcomes for all.
The right to health for adolescent girls and women must be upheld, and disparities in access to high-quality health services must be addressed. Let us work towards a future where cervical cancer is no longer a leading cause of mortality for women in Uganda.
By Judith Grace Amoit