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Celebrating the Heroes in Stopping Cervical Cancer

Posted by On August 30, 2013
Africa_070113-784 Last month, at the Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa Summit in Mozambique, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon® had the opportunity to celebrate some of the heroes making a difference in the field. We celebrated Mrs. Susan Banda, whom I met for the first time on a trip to Zambia in April 2012. She joined the Zambian cervical cancer prevention program in November 2005 as one of the first nurses to be recruited and trained in visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and cryotherapy, a simple diagnosis and treatment technique for pre-cancerous lesions. As of June 2013, Susan had screened over 10,000 women using VIA. She also was the first Zambian nurse to perform Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) for management of pre-cancerous lesions, a procedure usually performed by physicians. She has performed over 1,000 LEEPs and helped train physicians in the procedure. Her diligence and extraordinary skills prove that success can be achieved with excellence. We also celebrated Miss Chalwa Hamusimbi. Chalwa joined the Zambian cervical cancer program in late 2005. She was one of the first four nurses to be recruited. By June of this year, she had screened approximately 12,000 women (11,000 women in static clinics and over 1,000 in mobile clinics), and performed over 1,000 cryotherapy treatment procedures for pre-cancerous lesions. She is an amazing trainer who has helped open four clinics in Zambia’s efforts to scale up services across the country. In the past, only physicians performed the screening and treatment for cervical cancer, which limited access to important health care for women. With support from Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, the Centre for Infectious Disease Control in Zambia (CIDRZ), recently designated as the African Center for Women’s Cancer Control, is continuing to address this challenge by shifting tasks to lower-level health workers and training nurses like Susan and Chalwa. Since Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon was launched in Zambia in December 2011, almost 100 workers have received training in “See and Treat” at CIDRZ, including more than a dozen health workers from Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Through the newly trained providers, CIDRZ has screened over 115,000 women. In the last 18 months alone, over 40,000 women have been screened. By task-shifting the “See and Treat” approach to nurses and midwives, thousands more women now have access to lifesaving cancer services. The hard work illustrated by Susan, Chalwa, and those at CIDRZ is just a sample of many working to save women’s lives in developing countries. They represent the unsung heroes in public health. Although they do not work for accolades, we at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon celebrate them and their achievements as we continue to support Zambia and other countries in the fight against cervical cancer.